Rehearing ordered in 1995 murder case
March 1, 2016
Carson City District Attorney Jason Woodbury said Tuesday it will be "extremely difficult" to put together a new trial if the U.S. 9th Circuit Court refuses to reinstate the prison sentences that have kept former Jacks Valley resident Peter Quinn Elvik behind bars for 20 years.
That appellate court threw out his 1995 conviction for the murder of William Gibson at the Carson City Gun Range. The court said the trial judge failed to instruct jurors that some one 14 or younger is presumed not to know that what they did is wrong and that there wasn't enough evidence to determine Elvik's state of mind.
Woodbury said Elvik was on the stand for hours and the jurors "got to see and judge his state of mind."
"To think now that we're in a better position to evaluate his state of mind than that jury doesn't make any sense to me," Woodbury said.
Woodbury said Judge Mike Griffin ruled twice that Elvik's trial was fair and the Nevada Supreme Court agreed unanimously.
It wasn't until a federal judge saw the case that the conviction was overturned. That decision was upheld by the 9th Circuit Court late last year but, even that three-judge panel wasn't unanimous. It was a 2:1 vote with Judge John Kronstadt writing that in his review of the evidence, he believes that Elvik knew what he was doing and knew it was wrong.
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On Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court sent the case back to the 9th Circuit for a rehearing in light of its decision last year reinforcing the limits on the ability of federal courts to change state court criminal convictions.
Woodbury said in light of that decision, "we're hoping this gets a fresh look."
He said especially in view of the fact that no one is arguing that Elvik didn't shoot and kill Gibson, overturning the conviction based on one jury instruction doesn't make sense.
"No one's disputing that he did it," he said.
Woodbury also objected to the amount of time the whole process has taken.
"Any system that takes 20 years to get to finality is just not working," he said.
But if the order for a new trial stands, Woodbury said, "we're preparing for the worst."
He said his office has dug out all the old files on the case and identified potentially 30 witnesses to call.
He added that there is some evidence in the record on Elvik's state of mind.
If that happens, Woodbury said, it will be expensive not only for his office but for the public defenders handling Elvik's defense and all that money will come from Carson City's General Fund.