Defense rests in Biela murder-rape case in Reno
RENO (AP) – The jury is expected to begin deliberations in James Biela’s rape and murder trial today after his public defenders abruptly ended presentation of their case with the calling of only one expert witness about DNA evidence.
The judge said he anticipates the case going to the jury sometime this afternoon following closing arguments from both sides in the trial that began 12 days ago.
Biela, 28, a pipe fitter and ex-Marine, told the judge earlier Tuesday he wanted to testify but decided against it on the advice of his attorneys. He’s accused of raping and murdering 19-year-old Brianna Denison and sexually assaulting two other young women in a string of attacks from October 2007 to January 2008 on the edge of the campus of the University of Nevada, Reno.
If found guilty, a second phase of the trial will begin with the same jury determining whether Biela should be sentenced to death.
Denison was on winter break from Santa Barbara City College when she was abducted while sleeping on a friend’s couch near the UNR campus on Jan. 20, 2008.
The lone defense witness was Roger Miller, a DNA expert with a private lab in Phoenix, Ariz.
He testified late Monday and again Tuesday that it was not possible for his lab to conduct a second test on some samples to confirm the results of Washoe County’s crime lab because all of the samples had been consumed by the county tests.
Miller said that while the initial results were consistent with those that would tie Biela to the scene, he would not characterize them as a “match.” Under cross examination, he acknowledged he did not dispute the lab’s methods or the results it came up with.
The day began with the jury outside the courtroom when Perry asked Biela if he intended to testify, he initially said, “Yes.”
But after the judge questioned him on his knowledge of his rights and asked if he had made an educated decision based in part on the advice of his attorneys, Biela answered, “I guess so.”
Pressed by the judge about whether he still wanted to testify, Biela said, “I guess not.
“I just want to say I would like to (testify), I just was advised not to. So I’ll follow their advice not to do it.”