Lawyer claims Mack confused when he pled guilty
December 6, 2007
RENO (AP) – Darren Mack was confused and in physical distress when he ended his trial last month and pleaded guilty to killing his wife and an equivalent of no contest to shooting the judge handling their divorce, his new lawyer said.
In documents filed Wednesday, attorney William Routsis argued Mack should be allowed to withdraw his pleas and go to trial on charges of murder and attempted murder.
Mack, 46, abruptly ended his trial Nov. 5 just as his previous defense lawyers, Scott Freeman and David Chesnoff, were to begin calling witnesses.
“From the beginning of the hearing, it appears Mack was confused as to the nature of the pleas and what exactly he was admitting,” Routsis said in the court documents. “Mack’s apparent acquiescence to the plea negotiations was based upon fundamental misunderstandings and miscommunications.”
He pleaded guilty to stabbing his estranged wife, Charla, on June 12, 2006, and entered a so-called “Alford plea” acknowledging there was enough evidence for a conviction in the shooting of Family Court Judge Chuck Weller. Sentencing was set to begin Jan. 17.
Initially, Mack pleaded not guilty to killing his wife, maintaining the stabbing was in self defense. In the shooting of the judge, he originally pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity.
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Last week, Mack fired Freeman and Chesnoff, and hired Routsis.
Clark County District Douglas Herndon will hold a hearing in Reno on Monday to schedule briefs and arguments on the motion. Routsis’ motion also criticized Herndon, saying the judge did not explain to Mack the elements of premeditation and deliberation and failed to question him about his conduct on the day of the crimes and mental state while pleading.
The motion said Mack would have reiterated his original self-defense plea during such questioning. Special Prosecutor Christopher Lalli said he had not read Mack’s motion and would not comment.
In the document, Routsis said Mack received poor treatment at the Clark County Detention Center during the 21Ú2-week trial, adding to his stress and confusion the morning of his change of plea.
He was dehydrated, had to wait long periods between meals and could not get pain relief for a back problem, making it difficult for him to think rationally, Routsis said.
“This information presents a picture of a defendant who was not only in pain, dehydrated and sleep deprived, but isolated from his family and support group when critical decisions were being made,” he said.
Throughout the case, Mack “asserted his innocence in regard to the alleged first-degree murder of his wife,” the motion said. “It was essential to Mack throughout the process that he would be allowed to testify in his own defense.”
Routsis said the day before the defense was to begin its case, the defense team presented Mack with a plea agreement.
“The result was that Mack suddenly felt abandoned by his attorneys,” Routsis said.
In capital letters, Routsis said: “Mack is willing to risk a double life sentence to testify in his own behalf and to have a jury decide his fate.”
Information from: Reno Gazette-Journal, http://www.rgj.com