Possible retrial for 20 year old Carson City murder case
A 20-year-old murder case may be retried by the Carson City District Attorney’s office because an incomplete jury instruction violated the defendant’s rights.
On Aug. 31, 1995, 14-year-old Peter Elvik, of Carson City allegedly took a 12-gauge shotgun and went to the Carson City Gun Range where he shot and killed 62-year-old William Gibson. Elvik took Gibson’s pistol and car and drove to Costa Mesa, Calif., to meet a girlfriend, where police apprehended him the following day.
He was convicted of first degree murder and robbery with a deadly weapon in November, 1996 and sentenced to life in prison with the possibility of parole.
He has served his time at the Northern Nevada Correctional Center.
In 2013, District Judge Gloria Navarro reversed the 1995 conviction stating the jury should have been instructed 14-year-old Elvik was legally presumed not to understand what he did was wrong unless the government proved Elvik understood his conduct was wrong.
Adults are presumed to understand when they do wrong.
But protections under the 5th and 14th amendments to the constitution put that burden on the prosecution for defendants aged 8-14, not the defense.
Navarro ruled therefore Elvik’s conviction and sentence are invalid and must be vacated.
She said the Nevada Supreme Court put an impermissible burden on the defense “because it is the prosecutor who must prove that the eight-to-14-year-old child understood the wrongfulness.”
Navarro granted the Carson City District Attorney’s office the opportunity to retry Elvik, but if it does, it would have to prove Elvik knew his conduct was wrong. Currently, the Nevada Attorney General is seeking a rehearing before the 9th Circuit arguing the ruling is in air.
If the appeals court upholds the ruling, the Carson City District Attorney’s Office could retry Elvik.
But it would be on a tight schedule since notice of retrial must be filed within 30 days after the conclusion of appellate proceedings and retrial itself must commence within 120 days after filing of the notice.
Because it only has about four months to prepare for a trial, the DA’s office is starting to gather information and witnesses in case it does have to go to trial. DA Jason Woodbury said he has been in contact with Sheriff Ken Furlong to try to put the case back together from the old evidence files and to locate witnesses.
“In legal terms, 120 days is a blink of an eye,” he said.
“We are trying to get ahead of the curve so if we do have that limit we are ready, we want to make sure we are in the best possible position to retry.”
He said they are also meeting with the victim’s family to make sure they know how the process is going and also get their opinion on what they want done with the trial.
“We want to make sure they know what’s happening and what they need to prepare for what a retrial means,” Woodbury said. “It’s an important factor to consider.”
Woodbury said he’s shocked the case has come to this because those involved in the original trial were lawyers and judges who were the best in the business, he said.
“It is baffling to say that there was an error of such magnitude that we have to come back and retry,” Woodbury said. “Elvik was represented by Scott Freeman who is a District Judge and David Huston, a prominent attorney. These people involved were at the top of their profession.”
Woodbury also said his office disagrees with the federal rulings reversing Elvik’s conviction.