The Nevada Supreme Court on Thursday upheld a lower court decision to reject the guilty plea of Javier Righetti in the murder of a 15-year-old Arbor View High School freshman, and he is expected to stand trial next month.
“We’re looking forward to trial,” Chief Deputy District Attorney Giancarlo Pesci said in response to the opinion.
Deputy Public Defender Christy Craig declined to comment.
His plea to nine counts stands, but the high court addressed the most serious charge: first-degree murder.
On that count, the plea did not include an admission that the killing was premeditated, which prosecutors said should have been included. That allows prosecutors to ask a jury to consider more factors regarding the severity of the crime when weighing Righetti’s sentence.
“While a criminal defendant has a statutory right to tender a guilty plea, he does not have a right to plead guilty a la carte in order to avoid the state’s charging decisions,” Justice Kristina Pickering wrote in a unanimous 15-page decision.
Prosecutors said Righetti, now 24, was supposed to plead guilty to every charge alleged.
On Wednesday, District Judge Michelle Leavitt is expected to hear arguments on Righetti’s mental capacity and whether he should face the death penalty. Should the judge find Righetti mentally fit, he could face a jury as early as next month on the murder charge.
Righetti confessed to Las Vegas police that after raping Alyssa in September 2011, he tortured her by using a knife to stab her more than 80 times in the face and other body parts, according to authorities. He carved the initials “LV” on the freshman’s body because he felt it was “gangster” and returned later to burn the body, authorities said.
The slaying occurred on the Friday that ended Alyssa’s first week at Arbor View. She had stayed home from school that day after not feeling well in the morning. But she wanted to pick up a textbook from a classmate so she could do her homework for the weekend.
Prosecutors argued that Righetti also was guilty of first-degree murder under two other theories of liability: that the killing involved torture and that the killing occurred along with another felony. He admitted guilt under each of those theories last year.
Because Righetti’s plea was rejected, his constitutional right prohibiting double jeopardy is not violated by sending the case back for trial, according to the Supreme Court.
“The Double Jeopardy Clause was designed to protect defendants from harassment and oppression,” Pickering wrote, “not to shield defendants like Righetti from their decisions to gamble on novel interpretations of law which ultimately prove unsuccessful.”