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Assault suspect’s trial rescheduled; not enough jurors

Michael Schneider

Sexual assault suspect Carlos Quevedo appeared before District Judge Dave Gamble Monday for the scheduled beginning of his trial, but the jury didn’t.

Quevedo of Carson City appeared yesterday and the trial was rescheduled for Nov. 10.

Gamble said that because the result of a jury conviction could well be a life sentence for Quevedo, 100 jurors were summoned rather than the traditional 85. Of that 100, Gamble said 20 were excused prior to the court hearing.

Although the judge said that some of the prospective jurors were unreachable, only 41 of those who were to appear for jury selection did so.

In order to chose a jury for this trial, 31 of the prospective jurors are called from the courtroom into the jury box and area in front of the jury box. There they are questioned by Gamble and the attorneys for the prosecution and defense.

After the first 31 were called into the jury area, there were more members of Quevedo’s family left in the audience than prospective jurors.

Gamble excused a handful of prospective jurors after they told the judge they’d been sexually assaulted as children and didn’t believe they could be impartial. More prospective jurors were excused by the judge for employment reasons, as many said taking a week off from work would cause them and their families hardship.

After the judge asks the prospective jurors questions, he then allows the attorneys to canvass potential jurors and choose the ones they find acceptable.

When the selection process got to this point, there were less than 30 potential jurors left in the courtroom. Gamble called a recess to allow the sheriff’s office and court bailiffs time to contact those who didn’t show as required.

“It looked like we could get two or three more (prospective jurors) but that wasn’t enough for a jury panel,” said Gamble, saying that if the case would have proceeded Monday, there was a chance that a conviction could have been reversed again.

Quevedo, 28, was convicted of seven counts of sexual assault against a then 7-year-old victim in 1994 by a jury in District Judge Norman Robison’s Department Two District Court. He was sentenced to seven terms of life in prison with the possibility of parole in 20 years with three of the counts running consecutive to each other.

Quevedo lived in Indian Hills at the time of the alleged abuse.

Nevada Revised Statute 51.385 says that in a case such as this with a young victim, the judge must hold a hearing outside the presence of the jury to determine the trustworthiness of the victim prior to the admission of hearsay statements which the child allegedly made to others involved in the case such as investigators.

Citing Robison’s failure to do so, the Nevada Supreme Court reversed the conviction and remanded the case to Department Two for a new trial. As the current Department Two Judge Michael Gibbons was chief criminal deputy district attorney at the time of the first Quevedo trial, he recused himself and it was transferred to the Department One court of Gamble.

Quevedo appeared in custody before Gamble on Feb. 11 for trial setting. At that time, Gamble set bail at $50,000 which Quevedo was able to post. He has been free awaiting trial. Conditions of the bail included that he not have any contact with the victim.

Both Quevedo and the young victim are scheduled to testify when the trial commences.

Gamble said that each of the potential jurors who failed to show up for the selection process will have to appear in the judge’s chambers to explain why they were not in court Monday.

He said if they have a good excuse, then they will be warned. If they don’t have a good excuse, then they will be warned more harshly, the judge said.

Gamble said there have been fines levied to prospective jurors who failed to show up for jury selection in the past. The judge said that on one hand, the fact that there haven’t been greater penalties for those who ignore jury duty may have contributed to the problem. He also said that jurors are doing a service to the community and that must be considered also.

Deputy DA Kristine Brown, who will represent the state at the eventual trial, said that although some of the jurors who failed to appear were rounded up the sheriff’s office, she felt if the selection would have continued, Quevedo may have faced a hostile jury who didn’t want to be there.

She said this wasn’t a good climate for a trial and Quevedo and his attorney Patrick Gilbert may have objected to such a jury.