Supreme Court dismisses Meier appeal
The state Supreme Court has dismissed an appeal filed by a former Stateline man who was convicted in 1997 of second-degree murder and forgery.
A 15-page opinion released Friday says the improprieties claimed by lawyers for Monte Meier do not warrant a reversal of a jury conviction or a new trial.
Meier was tried in April 1997, almost a year after investigators found the body of his wife Julie buried in the back yard of the couple’s Hawthorne Way home.
Prosecutors successfully argued that Meier killed his wife, then forged her name so he could sell the house. Meier’s attorneys contended that Julie Meier died of alcohol-related liver failure. Meier admitted burying Julie after finding her dead on the floor of their home in 1994, but said he didn’t know how she died and concealed her death for fear he would be blamed.
No definitive cause of death was established, and Meier’s appeal argued there was insufficient evidence to establish that Julie died by criminal means.
“We conclude that sufficient evidence existed for a rational trier of fact to find that a criminal agency was indeed involved in Julie’s death,” Justices Cliff Young, Miriam Shearing and Myron Leavitt wrote. “This case does not involve the strong likelihood of death by natural causes…”
The appeal also challenged District Judge Dave Gamble’s decision to allow testimony on alleged domestic abuse suffered by Julie, the timing and relevance of the allegations and “prosecutorial misconduct” resulting in an unfair trial.
The domestic violence testimony, Meier’s attorneys said, did not include “clear and convincing evidence” showing Meier committed the acts, and even if the evidence was relevant, it was unfairly prejudicial.
“We conclude that evidence of a history of repeated, severe violence is highly probative in a murder case where serial domestic violence is involved,” the court opinion says. “Evidence of Meier’s years of physical abuse of Julie was essential to establishing the intent, motive and absence of mistake or accident required under (state law)…”
The misconduct accusations involved comments made by Douglas County Deputy District Attorney Tom Perkins about the defense’s star witness, forensics expert Michael Baden. Perkins was also assailed by Meier’s attorneys for alluding to the allegations of domestic violence in his closing arguments.
“After careful review of Dr. Baden’s testimony and the record as a whole, we conclude that while the prosecutor should not have stated that Dr. Baden was a clown and a liar, these comments do not warrant reversal,” the decision says. “We conclude that any potential misconduct was minimal and does not warrant reversal.”
The justices also addressed claims that real estate documents concerning the sale of the Meier home shouldn’t have been allowed as evidence because they weren’t included in a search warrant issued for the home, and the forgery and murder charges should not have been presented in the same case because they were unrelated.
“We conclude that (joining the charges) was appropriate because in hiring the woman to forge the real estate documents, Meier could be seen as attempting to further his scheme to conceal Julie’s death and secret burial,” they wrote. “Additionally, Meier’s acts underlying the forgery charge tend to show a consciousness of guilt in Julie’s death.”
Meier was sentenced to life in prison on the murder charge. Minimum parole eligibility was set at five years. A one- to four-year term was ordered for the forgery charge, to be served after the murder sentence. He is imprisoned at the Lovelock Correctional Center.