Sunday, May 3, 2009

Brianna Denison Case: Lawyer for Biela argues for 3 separate trials

BriannaDenison I missed seeing this article about the accused murderer of Brianna Denison in the news yesterday...  I found it this morning while surfing through a few of the old links I have for newpapers and stations that have an online presence.  Believe it or not, I was looking for articles about fires and the preparations for the upcoming fire season.   I feel bad that I hadn't been keeping up with the case over the last few months since James Biela was charged with Brianna's murder.   To be honest, I wasn't even aware that they had combined Brianna's case with the other two cases.  And that makes me feel even worse!  I need to keep this one on my list of active cases to watch.  When Brianna first disappeared in January of last year, I was watching the news for information like crazy, as well as keeping my eyes open for her when I was out and about.  After all, I live only 3 or so hours away from Reno where she disappeared from.  In my eyes, it was entirely possible that a kidnapper could have headed down through the mountains and into Northern California.   Sadly, Brianna never actually left Reno.  She was kidnapped, raped, murdered and then dumped right there in Reno.  I'll keep an eye on the Reno paper in the future to see what the judge rules....
From the Reno Gazette Journal:
bilde-2-DenisonCase The strangulation of Brianna Denison, the rape of another woman at gunpoint in a parking garage and the abduction and sexual assault of a third woman were all distinctly different crimes, and each should be tried separately, a lawyer for James Biela argued Friday.
"They would like the court to believe there was a similar attack pattern," Deputy Public Defender Jay Slocum said of the prosecutors. "Our contention was there is not."
But Deputy District Attorney Elliott Sattler cited a list of similarities among the three cases -- they occurred near the university, late at night, against women who had similar builds -- and asked Washoe District Judge Robert Perry to keep the cases together.
"What we have here is a man who basically is a predator," Sattler said.
Sattler said Biela conducted "sexually motivated attacks on unsuspecting
college-aged girls. The facts, they all point to the same person committing all of these acts one month after the other."
Perry said he would announce his decision on the request on Monday or Tuesday. At present, the trial is set for Feb. 22, 2010. If Perry separated the three charges, Sattler said he would keep that date for the Denison trial, and hold the two others sooner, in chronological order.
Denison, a Reno native, was a 19-year-old student at Santa Barbara City College when she disappeared from a friend's house near the University of Nevada, Reno campus early on Jan. 20, 2008. Her body was found on Feb. 15, 2008, in a field in southeast Reno.
Biela also is charged with raping a UNR student on about 10 p.m. on Oct. 22, 2007, as she headed toward her car. She testified at Biela's preliminary hearing that she was grabbed from behind and raped on the ground. She did not report the attack until January, and no DNA evidence was saved.
Another woman told police she was at her car outside her apartment about 2 a.m. on
Dec. 17, 2007, when she was grabbed from behind, taken away in a car and forced to have oral sex. The attacker then returned her to her car and left.
Connecting the two sexual assaults with the highly publicized Denison case would be unfairly prejudicial against Biela, Slocum told the judge.
"The jury may likely use evidence of the publicity and unfairly apply that to the other cases," he said. The jury also might see stronger evidence in one case and "piggyback the weaker case on the stronger one and convict."
He also said each attack was different.
The attacker used a firearm when he raped the woman in the parking garage, and she later told police that she contracted a sexually transmitted disease from the attack. The attacker didn't have a gun during the December attack, he took the woman away, then returned her, Slocum said.
And in the Denison case, she was abducted, raped and strangled, he said.
"The difference is pretty marked between all three situations," he said.
But Sattler said the attacks shared a common scheme.
"They were all conducted within that 400-foot radius on North Virginia Street," he said. The two rapes were "basically across the street from each other. That's how close these are. I would suggest that you could throw a rock from one place to the other.
"They are crimes of opportunity in that he puts himself there," Sattler said. "He's waiting for somebody to come by, so he can attack them. And he attacks in a similar way."

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