A Clark County judge could decide Wednesday what the dates will be for the trials of 4 defendants who have been linked to an alleged 2009 North Las Vegas gang-related attempted robbery and gun battle that resulted in the death of off-duty Metro Police Officer Trevor Nettleton.
Judge Jessie Walsh ruled Monday afternoon that at least 2 of the defendants, Prentice Marshall, 20, and Saul Williams Jr., 22, will be tried together. The state is seeking the death penalty against both.
The judge is expected to decide Wednesday afternoon whether a 3rd man charged with murder in the case, Quadrae Scott, 20, will be able to get a separate trial. Prosecutors are not seeking the death penalty against Scott.
Walsh had already ruled early that a 4th man charged with murder in the officer’s death, Adrian Pena, 20, will have a separate trial. Pena is not facing the death penalty.
Once all that is sorted out, Walsh is expected to set trial dates for the 4 men.
2 other men who were also charged in connection with the case, Michael and Emmitt Ferguson, who are brothers, have pleaded guilty to lesser charges.
On Sept. 12, both Fergusons entered guilty pleas to reduced charges of accessory to murder. In November, Judge Jessie Walsh sentenced each of them to a minimum of 12 months and a maximum of 30 months. Emmitt Ferguson was given credit for 719 days of time already served and Michael Ferguson was given credit for 722 days.
The multiple-defendant case involves the Nov. 19, 2009, death of Nettleton, a 3-year Metro Police veteran. Nettleton had arrived home from work shortly after midnight when he was confronted and shot in his garage in the 1100 block of Emerald Stone Avenue, near Lone Mountain Road and Donna Street.
Before being killed, Nettleton returned fire, authorities said.
Prentice Marshall, who was then 18, was arrested the day of the slaying at University Medical Center, where he was being treated for a gunshot wound to the testicles. Police said he told them he had shot Nettleton in the gun battle.
Nettleton was not wearing his uniform when he was shot — first in the leg, followed by a fatal shot to the chest, authorities have said.
Marshall has been charged with Nettleton’s death as well as with an armed robbery of an 18-year-old North Las Vegas man that took place shortly before the gun battle, about 11:45 p.m. Nov. 18, 2009, in the 1800 block of Grand Prairie Avenue.
Since Marshall’s arrest in the shooting, police linked the 5 other men — who allegedly belong to the Woods gang — to the officer’s death and the armed robbery.
Police said Williams called both Michael and Emmitt Ferguson from the North Las Vegas Detention Center and asked them to conceal a weapon allegedly used in the crime.
Williams, Marshall, Scott and Pena are charged with one count each of murder with a deadly weapon with the intent to promote, further or assist a criminal gang. They also face 1 count each of conspiracy to commit robbery, burglary while in possession of a firearm and attempted robbery, all with criminal gang enhancements..
On Monday, Walsh heard several motions by attorneys for Marshall and Williams, including a motion by Marshall’s attorney to have them tried separately.
Marshall’s attorney, Anthony Sgro, told the judge that Marshall and Williams would have antagonistic defenses — each would be trying to lay the blame on the other because of the chance of getting the death penalty.
Sgro said there is a good chance that both of them, or only one of them, would be acquitted if they are tried together. But having their trial together takes away the possibility of both being acquitted, Sgro said.
Sgro also said it would be unfair for Marshall to have to defend against both the prosecution and against Williams’ attorneys, who wouldn’t be as constrained on what arguments they could use as the prosecutors.
However, Chief Deputy District Attorney Pamela Weckerly pointed out some possible tactics the defense might take, such as saying surveillance photos don't absolutely identify either defendant.
Walsh ruled against separate trials, saying there was no legal cause to grant it.
Marshall’s other attorney, Christopher Oram, asked the judge to make a ruling that would bar police officers who wanted to watch the trial from coming to the trial in their uniforms, thereby creating a “coercive atmosphere.”
Oram said if the courtroom was filled with police officers, he was afraid it would send an unstated message to the jury that they were expecting a conviction.
Walsh said the courtroom is a public place and didn’t think it would be an issue. However, the judge said she wanted to think about it and would make a ruling on it when she hears more motions in the case beginning at 1 p.m. Wednesday.
Williams’ attorney, Deputy Public Defender Danny Silverstein, argued a motion against the death penalty, saying it was cruel and unusual punishment and violated the 8th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. He also told the judge that times change and standards for what is acceptable can change — he said the U.S. was the only Western nation that still has the death penalty. He said the U.S. stands with countries like China, Iran and Saudi Arabia in using capital punishment.
However, Walsh ruled against that motion.
(source: Las Vegas Sun)