Re-sentencing ordered by court in old murder | NevadaAppeal.com
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Re-sentencing ordered by court in old murder

SANDRA CHEREB
Associated Press Writer

A man convicted three years ago of the 1982 killing of a Carson City teenager will be sentenced again under an order issued by the Nevada Supreme Court.

A three-judge panel, in an order issued late Thursday, said Carson District Judge James Russell lacked jurisdiction to amend and lengthen the sentence of David Winfield Mitchell because Mitchell already had filed an appeal with the Nevada Supreme Court.

The high court, however, rejected other legal challenges Mitchell raised over evidence and jury instructions.

Sheila Jo Harris, 18, was the reigning Miss Douglas County when she was

strangled in her Carson City apartment, where Mitchell worked as a handyman.

Mitchell, now 65, was a suspect from the start and arrested early in the case, but later released when prosecutors determined there was not enough evidence to go forward to trial.

In 1999, a DNA comparison of semen found on Harris’ body and clothing against blood and saliva taken from Mitchell came back as a match.

He was arrested in August 2006 on the island of Trinidad and Tobago, where he worked as a night watchman for a government agency, and returned to Carson City to face a murder charge.

He was convicted in 2007 and initially sentenced to life without parole, plus up to 20 years for a deadly weapon enhancement.

The judge later amended that sentence to two consecutive life terms without parole to conform with another state Supreme Court ruling concerning deadly weapon use.

In 1982, when Harris was killed, the enhancement was a mandatory doubling of the sentence for the main crime, said Gerald Gardner, assistant Carson City district attorney. It was later changed to a range of added consecutive time up to 20 years, and Mitchell was initially sentenced under the latter.

Russell, however, amended the sentence to two consecutive life terms after a 2008 Supreme Court ruling that said enhancements are applied based on when the crime was committed.

But by that time, Mitchell had already appealed his conviction to the high court, meaning Russell didn’t have jurisdiction at the time to amend the sentence, justices said in the latest ruling.

They vacated the enhanced sentence and sent it back to the lower court to do again.