Biela loses latest appeal of his death sentence for murdering Brianna Denison | RecordCourier.com

Biela loses latest appeal of his death sentence for murdering Brianna Denison

Geoff Dornan
gdornan@nevadaappeal.com

Defendant James Michael Biela stands in front of Jay Slocum, deputy public defender, in court in Reno, Nev. on Monday May 10, 2010 in the jury selection portion of his trial for allegedly raping and killing Brianna Denison in 2008 in Reno. (AP Photo/Pool, Marilyn Newton)
AP

The Nevada Supreme Court has unanimously rejected James Biela’s second appeal seeking to overturn his conviction in the murder of Brianna Denison.

Biela was convicted of first degree murder and sexual assault as well as first degree kidnapping. He kidnapped the 19-year-old who was sleeping on a couch of a friend’s residence near the University of Nevada Reno campus Jan. 21, 2008. Her remains were not discovered until weeks later in a ravine in south Reno.

During that investigation, Biela was linked to the sexual assaults of two other young women near UNR. He was also convicted of assaulting those two victims and sentenced to death.

The Supreme Court has already upheld the conviction and sentence. Biela challenged his convictions and sentence this time arguing he received ineffective assistance of counsel, which the district court denied after an evidentiary hearing.

All seven justices rejected his arguments that the DNA samples collected from Denison’s remains, from the residence where she was kidnapped and from one of the other two victims were too weak to connect him to the crime. The DNA from the door handle at that residence was matched to the swabs taken from one of the other victims, connecting Biela to that crime as well.

“He offered no evidence at the postconviction hearing that counsel could have presented to undermine the DNA and other evidence implicating him in the kidnapping, sexual assault and murder,” the court wrote.

But the justices agreed with Biela’s lawyer that his trial counsel should have objected to the state argument that phone records placed Biela near the place where one of the other two victims was kidnapped, pointing out that he used his cellphone from several miles away 90 minutes before the attack.

They said, however, Biela failed to demonstrate prejudice and the brief argument didn’t make the proceedings so unfair as to deny due process.

They also pointed out that Biela left town promptly after Denison’s body was found and disposed of the vehicle that matched fibers found on her clothing. The justices concluded that there was ample evidence of Biela’s involvement in Denison’s murder and evidence connecting him to the other two victims.

In addition, the Supreme Court denied a petition for reconsideration by Frank Matylinsky. He has been in prison for first degree murder committed in Reno since December 1983.