Accused killer's case stays at South Shore

Jim Grant / Tahoe Daily Tribune

Jim Grant / Tahoe Daily Tribune

The case of a man suspected of murdering a South Lake Tahoe teenager in 1989 will be heard in South Lake Tahoe, El Dorado County Superior Court Judge Suzanne Kingsbury ruled Wednesday.

Prosecutor Dales Gomes had sought to move hearings for Joseph Nissensohn back to Placerville " where the case was initially filed.

Nissensohn is charged with the murder of 16-year-old Kathy Graves in 1981. Statements by Nissensohn's ex-wife, Cheryl Rose, indicate Nissensohn was involved in the murder of Graves, according to court documents filed by the prosecution.

A skull found near the Mount Tallac Trailhead on Aug. 22, 1990, is believed to be that of Graves, according to the documents.

In making his request, Gomes noted Tahoe's inclement winter weather could hamper travel to a trial and said Placerville is closer to the vast majority of witnesses to be called in the case.

"This case is more properly venued in Placerville," Gomes said Wednesday.

A trial in the case, if it was to occur, could last up to six months, Gomes said.

It is customary for El Dorado County Superior Court cases to be heard in the El Dorado County Superior Court house closest to where an alleged crime occurred, argued defense attorney Rick Meyer.

Kingsbury agreed. "I don't see any reason to deviate in this particular case," she said. "I think the case should be tried here."

Also on Wednesday, Kingsbury barred both the prosecution and defense from revealing to members of the media information in 3,000 pages of documents regarding the case.

The release of such information could "taint" the prospective pool of jurors, the judge said.

Kingsbury also limited Nissensohn's access to crime-scene photos to when he is in the presence of a defense attorney.

Gomes sought to limit the defendant's access to the documents because photographs of "gruesome crime scenes" with naked victims should not be released to Nissensohn in order to protect the privacy of the victims, the prosecutor said.

After attorneys' statements, Nissensohn addressed the court, entering a series of documents into the record and asking for a "summary dismissal" of the proceedings.

The court has not proven its jurisdiction in the proceedings, Nissensohn argued, questioning how he could properly defend himself without knowing the jurisdiction of the court. "Jurisdiction" is defined as the authority to interpret and apply the law.

Kingsbury told Nissensohn the court's authority stems from the Constitution of California and denied Nissensohn's request for a dismissal.

Also during his statements, Nissensohn snapped at Meyer, telling the defense attorney that he no longer is Nissensohn's lawyer.

"Thank you for your advice; I've sent you a letter terminating your services," Nissensohn said. "As of right now, you don't represent me."

In a letter to the court June 23, Nissensohn claims to have fired Meyer.

Two days later, Nissensohn wrote Kingsbury and said he would continue with Meyer if Nissensohn himself could be appointed co-counsel.

While leaving the courthouse Wednesday, Meyer said a decision on the matter has not been made. The public defender remains Nissensohn's counsel, and the matter would be taken up at a later date, Meyer said.

The next hearing in the case is scheduled for Oct. 10, when a prosecution motion to amend the criminal complaint against Nissensohn to include the 1981 murders of 14-year-old Tanya Jones and 13-year-old Tammy Jarschke is likely to be discussed.

The decomposed bodies of the girls were found Sept. 9, 1981, in a rural wooded area in Monterey County, according to court documents.

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