Ranchos slaying trial begins | NevadaAppeal.com

Ranchos slaying trial begins

by Sheila Gardner
Nevada Appeal News Service

Shannon Litz/Appeal News Service Defendant Michael Ward, right, and his attorneys, from left to right, Kevin Walsh, Wolfgang Nordmeyer watch the jury pool in Judge Michael Gibbons' courtroom Tuesday. A jury was selected in the trial that is expected to take up to eight days. Ward stands accused in the murder of Jeffrey John.

Jurors in the Michael Ward trial were told Tuesday that they will be sifting through differing eyewitness accounts of the events of June 23-24 leading up to the death of 24-year-old Jeffrey John of Markleeville.

Prosecutor Dina Salvucci compared the aftermath of the fatal altercation to what happens when people hear a loud bang and run outside to see what happened.

“Everyone sees something different at a stressful, scary, traumatic event,” she told the jury. “This was a very stressful incident. Everyone’s memories are affected.”

Ward is charged with battery with a deadly weapon causing substantial bodily harm, battery causing substantial bodily harm and involuntary manslaughter in the death of John, a father of four.

Defense attorney Kevin Walsh told the jury it is a case “about connecting the dots. Some dots are missing in the counsel’s opening statement,” Walsh said.

“We know my client did not kill him,” Walsh said. “Nothing my client did killed this man.”

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Ward has been in Douglas County Jail on $100,000 bail since the fight.

He pleaded not guilty, claiming he acted in self-defense.

According to police reports, a fight broke around 11:30 p.m. June 23 at a Gardnerville Ranchos duplex. The altercation spilled outside, down the block and across the street, where John’s body was found.

The Washoe County Coroner’s Office reported the cause of death was probable cardiac arrhythmia – a change in the heartbeat – brought on by the fight.

A jury of seven women and six men were seated Tuesday from 70 potential jurors who appeared in front of District Judge Michael Gibbons.

Jurors range from a Western Nevada Community College student to a retired California policeman.

Walsh filed a motion Tuesday to dismiss the charges, accusing the Douglas County District Attorney’s Office of selective prosecution.

He asked that the judge reserve a ruling on his motion until the evidence has been presented.

Gibbons said he didn’t want the trial to turn into an exploration of race relations in Carson Valley and Carson City.

John was a member of the Washoe Tribe.

“It is a very touchy area,” Gibbons said. “Perhaps it’s irrelevant, and it could be inflammatory as well.”

Prosecutor Dina Salvucci defended her office.

“There is absolutely no indication that the District Attorney’s Office took the race of the victim into consideration,” she said.

The trial is expected to last six to eight days.

n Contact reporter Sheila Gardner at sgardner@record-courier.com.