Murder conviction reversed for man accused of stabbing friend
December 22, 2004
The Nevada Supreme Court has ordered a new trial for James Laxton, who was convicted of second-degree murder in the stabbing death of his best friend.
Frederick Charles Wilson died Oct. 18, 2001, after the two men had an extended argument and physical fight at Laxton’s Ely home. Both were extremely intoxicated at the time.
Wilson had earlier knocked Laxton unconscious with his fists and, when the fight resumed, Laxton got a knife from the kitchen and stabbed Wilson three times at the front door.
Defense lawyers objected to allowing substantial evidence during the trial about Laxton’s activities earlier in the day, including arguments with his wife.
The evidence of prior acts by Laxton that weren’t part of the case raised objections from the justices who concluded the district court should not have allowed it.
“None of this evidence has any bearing on what occurred between Laxton and Wilson,” the ruling states. “The sole purpose for admitting this evidence was to show Laxton’s bad character and that he acted in conformity with that character when he stabbed Wilson.”
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In addition, the police failed to preserve broken bottles at the scene even though Laxton told them Wilson had come at him with a broken bottle and he acted in self defense.
The court also restricted the testimony of Laxton’s expert witness in the case and allowed a detective who investigated the case to give his opinion that he didn’t believe Laxton was telling the truth in his statements to police.
Justices Nancy Becker, Deborah Agosti and Mark Gibbons agreed the conviction should be overturned and Laxton granted a new trial.
“We conclude that the cumulative errors found in this case prejudiced Laxton and that we cannot say, beyond a reasonable doubt, that the outcome would have been the same absent these errors,” the court concluded.
Contact reporter Geoff Dornan at email@example.com or 687-8750.
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