Retrial in 1996 Carson City murder on hold |

Retrial in 1996 Carson City murder on hold

by Geoff Dornan
Nevada Department of Prisons

The retrial of Peter Quinn Elvik on murder charges is on hold after State Public defender Karin Kreizenbeck filed a writ asking the Nevada Supreme Court to order the case dismissed.

Elvik was convicted in 1996 of the shooting death of William Gibson at the Carson gun range.

But that conviction was overturned on orders of the 9th Circuit Court in 2013 because he was 14 years old at the time and legally presumed not to understand his actions were wrong. The appellate court overturned the conviction because the trial judge refused to instruct jurors they had to specifically find Elvik understood what he did was wrong.

Carson District Judge Todd Russell on Monday vacated the Feb. 19 trial date pending the high court’s ruling.

Kreizenbeck argued the high court should resolve the issue because it involves a constitutional issue of first impression and statewide public importance.

Carson District Attorney Jason Woodbury agreed saying it’s incredibly difficult for both prosecution and defense to put a case together 20 years down the road.

“In my mind, a system that allows a case to be reversed 20 years after the trial, there’s something wrong with that system. I don’t mind the court weighing in on that,” he said.

Elvik served 20 years in prison before he was paroled. He’s now living in California.

Woodbury said he has to retry the case because, otherwise, “it would legally be as if he was never convicted.” He said even if Elvik doesn’t return to prison, it wouldn’t be right to let him off without a conviction on his record.

The writ filed last week by Kreizenbeck says because of the passage of time and the death of several potential witnesses, retrying Elvik would violate his constitutional rights under the Fifth and 14th Amendments. She argued the defense no longer has witnesses who could present evidence of Elvik’s immaturity at the time.

She cited the death of Detective Dan Nuckolls, who interviewed Elvik after his arrest, along with deaths of Elvik’s father, grandfather and grandmother who discussed his childlike qualities.

She said Dr. Daniel Duggan, who interviewed Elvik for the original defense team, evaluated him and would have testified Elvik didn’t know the wrongfulness of his actions and had an immature moral sense. But she said Duggan is unwilling to testify in a retrial, says his records have been destroyed and has no memory of the details of the case.

She said Earl Elliott, a social worker hired by Elvik’s father, is also deceased. He too observed characteristics suggesting Elvik was immature and childish. Finally, she argued the records at Lakes Crossing where employees spent two weeks evaluating Elvik’s competence have since been destroyed.

Testimony, especially by those expert witnesses, Kreizenbeck said, can’t be recreated, making it impossible to determine Elvik’s state of mind some 23 years after the killing.

“Refusing to dismiss the criminal information and allowing a retrial to proceed would violate Mr. Elvik’s due process rights under the Fifth and 14th Amendments because he will be unable to adequately defend himself by showing that the presumption is correct and that Peter Elvik did not know the wrongfulness of his actions at the time of the incident,” the writ concludes.

Woodbury pointed out he too has four witnesses who are now deceased and others have moved on and left the area making it extremely expensive to bring them back for a new trial.

“We face the same challenges they do,” he said. “The primary question is what was the intent; what was Peter Elvik’s state of mind.”

He said Monday he’s confident the Supreme Court will uphold Judge Russell’s decision to let the retrial go forward but the case is on hold until that decision.