Las Vegas Sun

September 2, 2014

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Supreme Court to hear appeal of death-row inmate

The appeal of a death row inmate comes before the Nevada Supreme Court Wednesday in a case that was solved 22 years after the Las Vegas killing through the emergence of DNA testing.

Charles R. Conner was convicted in October 2010 of first-degree murder and two counts of sexual assault of 23-year-old Beth Jardine in her bedroom apartment June 1985.

During the investigation, a swab was taken of the sperm found in the vagina and anus of the victim. But reliable DNA testing was not available at the time, according to court records.

There were no arrests made and the case was on hold. Police suspected Jardine's live-in boyfriend but a records check showed he was in jail for DUI the night of the killing.

During a review of cold cases, a DNA check came up with a match in 2007 of the sperm of Conner. At the time, he was on parole in Arkansas on a conviction of kidnapping and raping a 10-year-old girl, according to court records.

And his fingerprints matched the prints found on the lamp shade in the bedroom of Jardine.

Conner and Jardine had been drinking with others at the Whiskey Creek Bar on East Charleston Boulevard the night of the murder and the two ended up in Jardine's apartment.

Conner said he was drunk and didn't remember anything. At trial he admitted he may have killed the woman but it was not deliberate or premeditated. He maintained the sexual intercourse was consensual.

Jardine, an airman at Nellis Air Force Base, was found nude lying face down. She had been hit 20-25 times with a framing hammer on the head.

The defense, in the arguments before the Supreme Court in Las Vegas, are expected to maintain there wasn't enough evidence to convict Conner of first-degree murder.

It contends there were nine errors made at the trial. It accuses the prosecution of using six of its nine peremptory challenges to exclude minority jurors and the combination of several errors merit a new trial.

The prosecution says Conner got a fair trial and the conviction should be upheld.

The full seven member court will listen to 60 minutes of arguments and will rule later.

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