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Home invasion murder trial begins
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Home invasion murder trial begins

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Socially distanced jury trial

Elko County District Attorney Tyler Ingram, far left, adjusts his mask as attorney Gary Woodbury and defendant Alan Honeyestewa stand at right facing the gallery where jurors are seated more than six feet apart to meet social distance guidelines on Oct. 7. 

ELKO – Testimony has begun in the jury trial of a man accused of taking part in a home invasion that resulted in the death of an Elko man two years ago.

Alan Joseph David Honeyestewa, 26, pleaded not guilty to nine counts before Elko District Judge Nancy Porter Wednesday morning.

The plea includes six felony counts related to open murder, attempted robbery with the use of a firearm, invasion of the home with possession of a firearm, burglary with a firearm and conspiracy to commit robbery.

Other gross misdemeanor charges include conspiracy to commit burglary, conspiracy to commit invasion of the home, and destroying, altering, erasing, obliterating and/or concealing evidence.

The trial is expected to last up to three weeks and include 38 witnesses and more than 400 exhibits.

On the night of July 7, 2018, police were called to the Wrangler Circle home of Bradley Smith, 33, on a report of gunshots being fired.

According to police reports, three male intruders kicked in the door to Smith’s residence and his bedroom, possibly to steal guns.

After a gunfight ensued, the men dragged one man into a vehicle and left the scene.

Smith died of gunshot wounds that night.

Honeyestewa, who was injured, was found at a residence on Wongobi Street and transported first to Northeastern Nevada Regional Hospital, then to Salt Lake City for treatment of gunshot wounds.

After he was released from the hospital, he was arrested and booked on charges of first-degree murder, robbery and attempted home invasion 12 days later.

Elko County District Attorney Tyler Ingram gave jurors “a road map” of what the evidence will look like in his opening statement.

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Ingram described the events leading up to the night of the incident and those involved, including Tieres A. Lopez Sr.

Lopez, 25, pleaded guilty to first-degree murder, a category “A” felony, and was sentenced by Porter to life in prison Aug. 14, 2019.

Attorney Gary Woodbury, who is representing Honeyestewa, allowed Ingram to call witnesses and present State’s evidence first, waiving his opening statement.

“No party is ever required to give an opening statement,” Ingram said after the first day of the trial, adding that Woodbury could possibly give a statement to the jury after Ingram’s case-in-chief or wait until closing arguments.

The jury trial is the first to be conducted in Department 1 during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Court staff said organizing the jury trial took “a long time” with preparation and planning to arrange seating and follow social distancing requirements and sanitization guidelines.

Jurors in Honeyestewa’s trial had been selected at the Elko Convention Center on Tuesday. They were separated into two groups of seven, resting in the two jury rooms on the second floor.

In the courtroom, jurors were spaced out in the gallery more than six feet apart. Witnesses sat in the jury box, and legal counsel rearranged their chairs to face the jurors instead of the judge.

All present within the courtroom were required to wear face coverings, removing them only to speak at certain points in the trial.

Porter addressed the jurors at the start of the proceedings, apologizing for the 110-year-old wooden chairs they would sit in and explaining that more recesses would be granted during the trial. After a lunch break, cushions were provided to make jurors more comfortable for the remainder of the trial.

The public can watch the trial on Zoom, but spectators are prohibited from recording the trial or distributing it online or on social media, and could face a jail sentence for recording or distributing the proceedings online or on social media, according to a court order filed on Oct. 6.

Porter said she considered conducting the trial at the Convention Center to allow the public to attend the proceedings, but decided to use the courthouse to save money.

“[It] would cost the County a thousand dollars a day,” Porter explained.

In September, a three-day jury trial was conducted by Department 2 Judge Al Kacin at the Elko Convention Center.

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