Jury selection begins in murder trial
With protesters beating a Native American drum outside and the courthouse packed with uniformed officers, jury selection began Monday in the much-delayed trial of a Carson City man accused of murder.
Seventy potential jurors were called to answer questions about their ability to fairly judge the case against Rocky Boice Jr., one of 10 people charged in the Aug. 23, 1998, motel-room beating death of Sammy Resendiz.
All but one of the defendants, including Boice, are Native American. They say because of their race they can’t get a fair trial. Legal issues surrounding the first-degree murder charge have delayed the case for four years while the Carson City District Attorney’s Office awaited a Nevada Supreme Court ruling on the charge.
Boice, 25, is being tried on charges of first-degree murder, burglary and battery with the use of a deadly weapon. If convicted, he can be sentenced to up to 40 years in prison.
Jose Resendiz, now raising the niece and nephew left fatherless by his brother’s murder, came to witness the state’s case.
“I’m going to be here as much as I can,” Jose said, staring down from the third floor of the courthouse at the mass of protesters outside. “But I’ll have to listen to what happened and I already know what happened.”
As Jose Resendiz waited for court to begin at 1 p.m., an unidentified friend of Boice’s tried to hand him a letter purportedly from Boice. The dead man’s brother refused to take the note.
“I don’t want it,” he said quietly after the man left. “What for?”
Seven of the potential jurors were released from service Monday.
One Native American woman told the court at least three times she was too close to both the Hispanic community and the Native American community to fairly judge the case.
“I’ve heard both sides and I have my opinion,” she said.
One man was excused for health reasons, another because he was more than 70 years old.
At least four of the prospective jurors expressed feelings of “intimidation” at the protests put on by family and friends of Boice.
“It was pretty hairy going through that,” said one woman.
“To be honest, when I saw (the protesters) I folded up my summons and hid it in my back pocket as I walked in the courthouse,” a man said.
Another woman asked the judge if the jurors would feel safe going home at night.
Judge Michael Griffin, who is presiding over the trial, assured her they would.
“These (protesters) are law-abiding, decent people expressing their displeasure with what they call an injustice,” he said.
Jury selection will resume this morning.
Griffin admonished all prospective jurors when they were released Monday evening that they were not allowed to discuss the case among themselves or with anyone else.
“You can tell your husband or wife this is a murder case and may possibly take three weeks. That’s all you can say,” he said.
Of the original 12 suspects, two have pleaded guilty and received suspended sentences. Alejandro Avila pleaded guilty to gross misdemeanor conspiracy to commit murder and David Moyle pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit battery with a deadly weapon. Both men are expected to testify for the prosecution.
The next trial, against Julian Contreras, 19, is set for Oct. 21 to Nov. 11.
Three trials against the remaining eight defendants are scheduled between December and March.