Friday, Aug. 20, 2004 | 11:07 a.m.
District Court Judge Joseph Bonaventure began the daunting task this morning of hearing a combined total of 44 motions filed by Richard Tabish and Sandra Murphy who in roughly a month an a half are to be re-tried in connection with the 1998 murder of gaming figure Ted Binion.
Murphy, who lived with Binion, and Tabish are accused of the September 1998 murder of Binion, the former part-owner of Binion's Horseshoe who was found dead in the Las Vegas home he shared with Murphy.
Tabish and Murphy were convicted of the murder in 2000 and were sentenced to life in prison, but the Nevada Supreme Court overturned the conviction. The former lovers are to face a new trial on October 11.
The bulk of the motions being argued today deal with the defense's desire to have certain statements, pieces of evidence and prior bad acts ruled inadmissible for the retrial.
Bonaventure rejected Tabish's laywers' motion to sequester the jury, saying he felt by issuing the same admonishments to the jury as he did in the original trial the jury would be unaffected by the media.
Tabish's attorneys pointed out that the case should be expected to continue to generate a lot of publicity given the fact that in two years 738 newspaper articles had been published about the case.
Bonaventure rejected Tabish's lawyers' argument that the alleged "scandalous, tabloid-like headlines" and many of the articles written are prejudicial to Tabish and Murphy.
Bonaventure said he felt confident that by instructing the jury not to speak to the press, designating a parking area for the jurors and providing a bailiff to escort jurors to and from the courthouse every day there was no need to sequester them. He did say the jury would be sequestered during deliberations. He added if any of the jurors failed to abide by his order to not speak to the press they would be removed from the panel.
Bonaventure granted Tabish's motion to add challenges during jury selection, specifically adding two pre-emptory challenges each to the defense and the state giving each a total of 10 challenges.
Bonaventure also said there would be five alternate jurors selected for the trial and both the prosecution and the defense would each have five challenges to alternate selections.
Perhaps the most compelling motion to be heard today was filed by Murphy's attorney, Michael Cristalli, on July 16 accusing prosecutors of misconduct in their handling of witness Steven Kurt Gratzer prior to the first murder trial. Cristalli submitted an affidavit from Gratzer, which was taken nearly two years ago, to support his allegations.
In claiming prosecutorial misconduct, the defense produced a new affidavit from Gratzer stating that Murphy didn't know about the plot to murder Binion and charging that the DA's office withheld that information because it would have helped Murphy.
Cristalli also contended in the motion, which seeks to dismiss the charges against Murphy, that Gratzer's testimony is clouded by his acceptance of $20,000 in reward money offered by Binion's estate.
Gratzer, who grew up with Tabish in Missoula, Mont, and six other witnesses shared a $100,000 reward after the trial.
Roger has denied any misconduct in dealing with Gratzer, who testified with immunity at the trial, that Tabish sought his help in killing Binion.