Murder charges will be reinstated in Echols case | NevadaAppeal.com

Murder charges will be reinstated in Echols case

by Geoff Dornan, Appeal Capitol Bureau

Following the logic used in the Resendiz case, the Nevada Supreme Court on Monday ordered felony murder charges reinstated against Anthony Echols.

Echols was charged with breaking into the home of Carson City contractor Richard Albrecht in August 2000 and murdering him.

He was charged under Nevada’s felony murder statute, which says murder committed during the commission of another felony such as rape or burglary is automatically fist degree murder.

The effect of that law is to relieve the prosecution from having to prove the murder was willful, premeditated and deliberate.

In the Resendiz case, where 10 people were charged with breaking into a motel and beating Sammy Resendiz to death, and the Echols case, Carson District judges threw out the felony murder counts saying the murders were not committed during the commission of another felony. They agreed with defense lawyers that the break-ins were committed for the purpose of committing the murders and, therefore, not separate events

That put the district attorney’s office in the position of having to refile charges as open murder and proving premeditation and deliberation.

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The murder charges in Resendiz were reinstated May 15, on a split vote. Justices Nancy Becker, Cliff Young, Deborah Agosti and Chief Justice Bill Maupin said the Legislature clearly intended to elevate murder occurring during crimes such as rape or burglary to first degree murder without requiring proof of intent.

The Echols decision cites that Resendiz case, stating that “this court stated that the legislative intent was clear and we do not believe it is appropriate to apply the merger doctrine to felony murder when the underlying felony is burglary regardless of the intent of the burglary.”

Therefore, Young, Agosti and Myron Leavitt ruled the district court erred in reducing the charges in the Echols case.

Prosecutors say they believe Echols killed Albrecht because he thought his estranged wife Karen was having an affair with Albrecht. Albrecht’s family denied the allegations.