Faced with a budget crisis and a powerful bay area defense attorney, DA Kirk Andrus moved to dismiss kidnapping charges against Suzanne Little, and Murder/kidnap charges against Greg Nelson of Hoopa, for the death 33 years ago of six-year old Willie Cook of Happy Camp. Nelson's first trial ended with the jury deadlocked 7 to 5 for conviction on murder, and 6 to 6 on the kidnapping charge. Redding Searchlight
Nelson's retrial and Little's trial had been scheduled to begin Jan 11. Family and friends of the victim felt betrayed and appalled by the decision. Andrus will undoubtedly be second-guessed for spending a reported $60,000 in drug forfeiture money for a special prosecutor in Nelson's first trial instead of prosecuting it himself. Many courtroom observers thought that Nelson's first trial should have been a slam dunk, since the prosecution had a confession and an eyewitness. But public defender Lael Kayfetz managed to sow enough doubt to get a mistrial.
The state can still refile charges against both defendants if they get more evidence and/or more money.
As the days have gone on since the mistrial was announced on November 12, I have become more convinced of Nelson and Little's guilt. Several former jurors have commented extensively on the case in the Eureka Times-Standard forum. Topix forum The bottom line is that Nelson did confess. The confession was wrung out of him over a two day period, but it was ruled admissible. Nelson clearly and consistently denied molesting Cook, whose body was found nude. But his statements on whether he suffocated or strangled Willie were equivocal in the beginning, until he finally did confess, although he claimed he hadn't really meant to kill him. And he admitted early on that he was the driver when Willie was kidnapped in Happy Camp and brought to Hoopa. Nelson later claimed that he made the confession because he was really messed up on meth, and had consumed 1/8 ounce of it that the arresting officers missed, when they stopped for a bathroom break. Nelson may not be too bright, but he already knew about Miranda rights, having two previous convictions. And the meth addicts that I have known would definitely lie, but they all seemed to be clever liars skilled at manipulating people to get money or whatever they needed to get more speed. The idea that this powerful mental stimulant would make someone confess to something they didn't do is fundamentally at odds with the reality I have seen over the last 40 years. I would say that any juror relying on his own common sense would have to put the idea of false confessions in the same loopy category as the idea of "recovered memories," a concept advocated by a few psychologists years ago.
Where did the prosecution go wrong on this case? See above post.