Monday, March 10, 2008 | 11:12 a.m.
CARSON CITY – Clarence H. Elliot, serving consecutive life terms with the possibility of parole for the murder of his wife in Las Vegas, turns 68-years-old next Monday.
But the Nevada Supreme Court isn’t sending him a birthday present. In fact, it’s taking one away.
The court has overturned the decision of District Judge Lee Gates who had ruled that Elliot did not receive effective counsel at his trial for the fatal shooting of his wife Barbara in February 1996.
Judge Gates had ruled that trial attorney Kirk Kennedy was ineffective for not pursing Elliot’s claim he had alibi witnesses. The court said Kennedy made a tactical decision to attack the circumstantial evidence. And it was unclear, said the court, whether Elliot ever discussed with Kennedy the alibi defense or the witnesses who could support it.
The court said the conviction of Elliot is “based solely on circumstantial evidence, and not overwhelmingly strong circumstantial evidence at that.” That was a reasonable defense trial strategy, the three-judge court panel said.
Judge Gates also said Kennedy was ineffective for not calling any witnesses in behalf of Elliot. But Elliot acknowledged that other witnesses could testify he was a jealous and possessive man.
Barbara Turner-Elliot, who was married to Clarence for eight months, disappeared Feb. 19, 1996 after leaving work. Her body was found several months later and she had been shot four times.