Saturday, September 19, 2009

The Latest on the Nicholas Sheley Case

Guest Entry by katfish!

Shelly Forcibly Removed From courtroom, Motion to Represent Self Denied, Battery Trial Starts September 21st

Jury selection will start on September 21 in the battery trial of Nicholas Sheley, 30, of Sterling, IL. Sheley was indicted on three counts of aggravated battery and one count each of aggravated assault and criminal damage to property stemming from an incident at the Knox County jail on April 17, 2009. The indictment accuses Sheley of attacking correctional officers with the metal legs he took off a chair in a maximum security day area and punching a sheriff’s Deputy in the face.

The accused spree killer, Sheley has been held in the Knox County jail since July 3, 2008, awaiting trial for 17 charges in connection to the beating death of Ronald Randall, 65, Galesburg. He faces the death penalty if convicted. The trial is expected to be held in the summer of 2010. He is also accused of killing five other people in Whiteside County, Il and an Arkansas couple who were killed while visiting in Missouri. All eight were killed in late June 2008.

The last week has been a busy time for accused spree killer Nicholas Sheley.
During a pre-trial hearing on September 8, Sheley told Knox County Circuit Court Judge Stephen Mathers he wants to fire his attorney, Public Defender Jim Harrell, and represent himself in the upcoming battery trial. At the same hearing Harrell filed a motion to extend the discovery period which was denied. Sheley complained he hasn’t been able to consult a private attorney because of a gag order imposed from the capital case. Harrell also cited the gag order limited his access to his client. Mathers told them both to file the proper motions and he would consider them. For more on that hearing click here.

According to Susan Kaufman of the Galesburg Register-Mail, Sheley appeared in Knox County Circuit Court Monday morning, September 14, to present his motion to fire his court-appointed attorney and represent himself in the upcoming battery trial. The hearing was scheduled Friday afternoon, September 11, after Judge Stephen Mathers viewed several motions filed by Sheley and his attorney, Jim Harrell.
I didn’t attend Monday’s hearing because it was so last minute I didn’t know about it. I was contacted Monday night about the hearing on Tuesday morning, September 15, which I did attend and will give an “in the courtroom report". First, I will give you some highlights Susan Kaufman reported about the hearing Monday.

Mathers said it was important Sheley understand the disadvantages of self-representation including being unprepared to make tactical decisions, not knowing to make objections to inadmissible evidence and receiving no special treatment or consideration. Mathers also cited Sheley’s lack of legal experience.“There is a difference between stupid and ignorant,” Mathers explained to Sheley. “Ignorant is lacking the experience. Stupid is having the knowledge and not using it. I do think you are ignorant and inexperienced.”Mathers plans to review two court competency exams that were ordered in Sheley’s capital murder case. Sheley had wanted to represent himself in that case but eventually withdrew the motion. At issue is not whether Sheley is competent to stand trial but rather his ability to represent himself. Assistant Attorney General Mike Atterberry, who entered his appearance as co-counsel in the battery case for the first time, said it was the
state’s position that Sheley is using tactics to try to delay the trial scheduled to begin Sept. 21.

In other rulings Monday, Mathers agreed to bar the jury in the battery case from hearing why Sheley was incarcerated when the alleged jail incident took place. The jury also will not be told about Sheley’s prior “bad acts” and convictions older than 10 years unless Sheley decides to take the stand. Sheley again told the court that due to the imposed gag order in his capital case, he had not been allowed to consult with a private attorney without the presence of Harrell. Mathers ruled that Sheley may consult a private attorney in his
battery case without Harrell’s presence. That ruling does not affect the capital case.

Mathers said he would make his ruling on Sheley’s self-representation motion on Tuesday.

There was much more said in Monday’s hearing that I learned in court Tuesday and I‘ll include that with my “in the courtroom report.” Have you ever watched “Disorder in the Court” with Ashley Banfield on TruTv?
Let’s just say Tuesday’s hearing at times felt like an episode of “Disorder In the Court". Here we go…….

I want to start this entry off with a big thank-you to Mr. Katfish for being so sweet. Today is his birthday and instead of making him a nice breakfast as planned, I’m getting ready to go to court. When I came out from getting ready he had made me the nice breakfast….what a guy!

I arrived at the courthouse at 8:45 am, the hearing starts at 9:15, so I have plenty of time. I’m a little caught off guard when going through security. The two guards (sheriff’s deputies or bailiffs, I’m not sure what their titles are, but they are definitely sheriff employees) were in a great mood and said, “Well, it’s nice to see you here this morning”. They are always polite but not usually so friendly, it was rather nice. I headed up the two flights of stairs with a little extra spring in my step. My morning is certainly off to a good start.

When I enter the courtroom the only people here are the family of Ronald Randall. As I have said before they are always the first ones here for court and sit in the front row behind the prosecution. They are here to represent “Ronnie” and they are a testament to what a great dad, brother, friend that he was. I’m sure that he is proud of them too.

I take a seat in the row behind the family......

Continue reading at katfish ponders....


Liz said...

many thanks for a great report - where does the law stand on being shackled in front of a jury? Would this give a reason to appeal?

He seems to see chairs as the weapon of choice (dragging the chair as he leaves) - or do I have that wrong?

katfish said...

Judge Mathers ordered the court reporter to keep Sheley's final outburst on the record(before being dragged out of the courtroom). I think this being in the transcript will give the state some back bone if they were to decide to file a motion requesting he be shackled.
I found a ruling from the 6th circuit of the USSC of a case in Michigan People v. Ruimveld, 639 N.W.2d 812 (Mich. 2002). The court found it was an error to shackle the defendant and in this case the lower court also refused the defense request to cover the shackles.3 of the 4 judges ruled it was a harmless error and withheld the conviction. The first case the court cited in it's ruling was Illinois v. Allen.

In Illinois v. Allen, 397 U.S. 337(1970), the Court held that where a prisoner was intentionally disruptive at trial, and where he was informed that he could remain in the courtroom as long as he ceased his disruptions, his constitutional right to be present throughout his trial was
waived when he chose to continue disrupting the proceedings.
In so holding, Justice Black noted for the Court that:
[t]rying a defendant for a crime while he sits bound and gagged before the judge and jury would to an extent comply with that part of the Sixth Amendment’s purposes that accords the defendant an opportunity to confront the witnesses at trial.

But even to contemplate such a technique, much less see it, arouses a feeling that no defendant should be tried while shackled and gagged except as a last resort. Not only is it
possible that the sight of shackles and gags might have a significant effect on the
jury’s feelings about the defendant, but the use of this technique is itself something
of an affront to the very dignity and decorum of judicial proceedings that the judge is seeking to uphold.

Id. at 344. Nonetheless, the Court held that in some situations, binding and gagging a defendant might be appropriate, due to safety or security concerns for all parties involved in the trial. Id.

If Sheley isn't shackled I think the far side of the courtroom will be a popular spot in the gallery.

Liz, I can see why you would think a chair is Sheley's weapon of choice; however, Sheley's MO seems to be one that he uses whatever he finds nearby to attack, the last two incidents have involved chairs, but he also used a bar off the wall in a shower in an attack an inmate(they found the screws on him after). We also know that several of his 8 victims in the alleged killing spree were attacked with an ax (they just happened to be in a jeep he stole) there is mention of other unidentified weapons he allegedly used. I assume those will come out in court during the murder trials.