Supreme Court to decide on Elko appeals

2012-01-25T09:14:00Z 2012-01-29T19:20:14Z Supreme Court to decide on Elko appealsBy JARED DuBACH — Free Press Staff Writer Elko Daily Free Press

ELKO — Nevada Supreme Court justices have gone into discussion regarding an appeal in the case of convicted murderer Linda Fields.

The case is one of three Elko County trials reviewed by the court, along with that of a Jackpot woman sentenced to life for lewdness with a minor, and an Elko man on death row for a 1998 murder.

Fields was accused, along with her husband, John Vernon Fields, of murdering ranch employee Jaromir Palensky over finances in 2006. They had taken out a $300,000 life insurance policy on Palensky prior to his murder.

On Nov. 4, 2010, then-Elko District Judge Michael Memeo suggested that the Fields case go back for a new trial with the amended charge of principal to open murder instead of the original open murder charge of which she was convicted. In his finding, Memeo noted that the amended criminal information “alleges that Linda Fields aided and abetted John Vernon Fields and/or a person or persons as yet unknown in the killing of Palensky.”

On Nov. 5, 2010, Elko District Attorney Mark Torvinen filed an appeal with the Supreme Court. Torvinen argued that in the trial record there is no testimony or evidence that disputes the Vernons were involved in Palensky’s death. He also argued that the testimony of Niqua Walker should be considered, rather than having it be “hearsay.” Torvinen stated Walker’s testimony demonstrates she had intimate knowledge of what transpired.

On April 22, 2011, Torvinen stated that a retrial for Fields would constitute a “manifest error by the trial court.”

The appeal was heard on Jan. 4 of this year and has been submitted to the Supreme Court for decision.

Michelle Taylor

The Supreme Court affirmed the conviction of Michelle Taylor, a Jackpot woman convicted of lewdness with a minor. The case went to the Supreme Court in mid-October, at which time Taylor’s defense argued a life sentence for “asking a boy to have sex with her” was “cruel and unusual punishment.”

Prosecutor Chad Thompson argued the statute calls for a 10-year minimum with a possible life sentence with the possibility of parole. Thompson, in his argument to the justices, said there was skin-to-skin contact between the boy’s hand and Taylor’s breast. He also said Taylor tried to remove the boy’s clothing and demanded he have sex with her, rather than requested it.

Taylor’s defense had sought a review of the evidence in the case; not a re-trial or review of sentencing. However, the viability of the evidence would have had an impact on the trial’s outcome.

According to court records, Taylor was arrested for lewdness in February 2008 after the 13-year-old boy’s mother told sheriff’s deputies that Taylor had tried to have sex with her son.

Kelly Eugene Rhyne

An appeal filed last year by then-District Attorney Gary Woodbury arguing against a re-trial of a convicted killer on death row is awaiting a decision by the Supreme Court justices.

Kelly Eugene Rhyne, who was convicted of murder and sentenced to death in 2000 for killing Donald Brown outside a local bar, was granted a re-trial in late 2010 by Senior District Judge Norman Robison. The argument at the time was that Rhyne had ineffective counsel.

Woodbury, who is now in private practice, responded that if there were any difficulties during trial it was due to Rhyne’s own actions. He cited an incident in which Rhyne had threatened his defense counsel with bodily harm. Rhyne also reportedly made emotional outbursts during court proceedings and menaced Brown’s family members.

The appeal was submitted for decision Nov. 15.

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