No death penalty in Oxley murder case

Shannon Litz/ R-C fileSuspect James Matlean listens to his lawyer Ken Stover during a preliminary hearing in November.

Shannon Litz/ R-C fileSuspect James Matlean listens to his lawyer Ken Stover during a preliminary hearing in November.

The district attorney's office will not seek the death penalty against James Matlean, accused in the February 2008 murder of 36-year-old Benjamin Oxley as he slept in his Wildhorse home.

Prosecutor Tom Gregory said he filed a notice with District Court on Wednesday.

"The District Attorney's office has determined that the statutory requirements for the death penalty are not met by the facts in this case," Gregory said. "This critical decision was reached after careful consideration was given to the constitutional and legal requirements that we are sworn to uphold."

Gregory said the statute requires the existence of "aggravators" that outweigh evidence in mitigation.

"There are 15 statutory aggravators that include such things as torture, multiple deaths, a prior conviction for murder, a murder committed after the commission of sexual assault, and murders committed on police officers," he said.

"While all murder cases are 'aggravated' in the general sense of the word, not all murders have facts that meet the definition of the statutory aggravators. In addition to the statutory requirements, there are constitutional concerns that also have to be adhered to," he said.

Penalties for murder in the first degree also include life without the possibility of parole; life with the possibility of parole beginning in 20 years; or a definite term of 50 years with the possibility of parole after 20 years have been served, Gregory said.

Matlean pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder with use of a deadly weapon on Dec. 6 and is set for a two-week trial to begin July 19.

His attorney, Ken Stover of Reno, said Matlean was pleased by the decision.

"I talked to James and his mother and they're relieved," Stover said Wednesday. "It's a difficult decision to file that notice, but Tom (Gregory) has always been a stand-up guy. I am very happy.

"The next step is how we deal with the case and defend it. Nothing about the decision today mutes our anger against Dawn (Oxley)," Stover said.

Dawn Oxley, 38, is the victim's ex-wife and the suspect's former girlfriend. She was given immunity from prosecution in the murder in exchange for her truthful testimony against Matlean.

During a two-day preliminary hearing, she denied any involvement in Benjamin Oxley's death despite testimony by her son that he heard his mother and Matlean drunkenly discuss killing the victim Feb. 20, 2008, the night before he was shot to death.

Matlean, in Douglas County Jail for more than a year, is to appear in Douglas District Court on Jan. 24 for a status hearing.

Dawn Oxley was released from custody on Dec. 20 after a series of probation violations on domestic battery and drunk driving convictions.


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