Coronavirus postpones re-trial in 1996 Carson City murder
Saying he is concerned about the court’s ability to safely empanel a jury May 5 given the social distancing and other restraints imposed by the coronavirus that will continue at least until April 30, Carson District Judge Todd Russell on Monday postponed the retrial of Peter Quinn Elvik on murder charges.
Russell told lawyers in a morning hearing that he didn’t see how they could bring in 150-200 people for selection as potential jurors, completely violating social distancing requirements imposed by both Gov. Steve Sisolak and President Trump without creating health risks.
Based on that concern, the judge reset the trial for Sept. 15.
Elvik was convicted of shooting William Gibson to death in 1996 at the Carson Gun Range. That conviction was overturned in 2013 when the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled the trial judge erred by not instructing jurors that they had to specifically find Elvik, who was 14 at the time of the shooting, understood what he did was wrong.
Under Nevada law, defendants aged 14 and under are presumed not to understand that their actions may be wrong. The appellate court ruled that, without that instruction, it was much easier for the jury to convict Elvik of the crime.
Elvik was released from prison on parole after 20 years.
District Attorney Jason Woodbury has said he has to either reach a deal with the defendant and his lawyers or retry the case because, “if not, it would legally be as if he was never convicted.”
He said it wouldn’t be right to let Elvik off without a conviction on his record.
“He would not be a convicted felon. He would not be on parole,” said Woodbury.
But the new trial would necessarily focus on Elvik’s state of mind at the time and analyzing that has become much more difficult because, 20 years later, at least four key witnesses are deceased and the psychiatrist’s notes taken in his evaluation at Lakes Crossing no longer exist.
In addition, the defense has petitioned the Nevada Supreme Court for review of Russell’s ruling that Elvik submit to an examination by the state’s forensic psychology expert.
The high court has not yet ruled on that petition.