Thursday, November 12, 2009

Murder on the Klamath--Mistrial

Judge Rufus Yent declared a mistrial Thursday morning in the Greg Nelson trial.  The final poll was six to six on the kidnapping count, and seven to five for conviction on the murder count.  Unfortunately, I missed the drama of the moment.  I was working on my garden patch, and found one last onion. 

But I did get to the courthouse at 3:30.  Court was in session from 4:00 to 4:30.  The prosecution now has moved to try Greg Nelson and Suzanne Little together, with jury selection beginning Jan. 11.  Neither defense lawyer seemed to have any serious objections, but they will have until the 19th to reply.  The judge postponed action on the motion of John Forsyth, representing Little, for a change of venue.  It looks like both teams are proceeding on the assumption that the trial will be in Yreka, but we will see. 

A joint trial would be a logistical problem because the small courtroom would have to hold two separate juries, each with four alternates.  There will probably be occasions when one jury would be escorted out of the room because defendants may have conflicting interests. 

Judge Yent indicated that Little would probably be released on own recognizance in exchange for a waiver of right to prompt trial, provided that she stay away from Hoopa.  Forsyth said she would be in San Francisco.  Both defendants were present, in prison orange instead of street clothes.  Court was recessed after the discussion of scheduling.  Other than a few comments, Forsyth had little opportunity to demonstrate his skill.  Prosecution witness Sylvia Jenkins claimed that they robbed the Ray's Sentry supermarket to get money to pay him.  (Not that she is a very credible witness, but that was the rumor in Hoopa.)
I was surprised that murder got more votes for conviction than kidnapping.  The corroboration of the murder confession rested almost entirely with Steve Marshall.  To believe his story, you have to believe that after he told his mother he saw Greg, Suzanne and Joyce, and was told to keep quiet and stay close, then a few weeks later they dropped him off at the home of the suspected kidnappers for babysitting.  What parent would do that?  The kidnapping confession, on the other hand, seems to be corroborated by his sister's testimony, and a couple of others who said they saw the child.  Plus, the kidnapping confession took place during the "good cop" part of the interrogation, and seems more spontaneous.  But, I'm not entitled to second guess the jurors.  They got intimately familiar with all the evidence.  I heard a little bit directly, and the rest second hand.


  1. You have the two charges reversed; Count One is the Homicide charge which was 6-6. Count Two is the Kidnapping For Ransom charge, which was 7-5

  2. Were you there? I got that tally first from a former juror posting on the Eureka forum. (He seems very legit.) And I thought DA Kirk Andrus confirmed it when I spoke briefly with him. But a greater vote in favor of the kidnapping would make sense, IMO.

  3. yes I was there. The splits were announced in the order the counts were charged.

  4. Well, the Times Standard and the Yreka Daily News both reported it the same way I did.

  5. You of all people should know that printing something in a newspaper does not always make it right.

  6. Commenters in the Times Standard forum had it that way also. Juror 12 said there was a lesser vote for a kidnapping conviction because, although all jurors agreed that Willie Cook was held at Greg Nelson and Joyce Croy's place, there was doubt as to whether a ransom was demanded.