One of six defendants charged in the slaying of Las Vegas police officer Trevor Nettleton won a legal skirmish Wednesday when District Judge David Wall agreed to dismiss charges of robbery and conspiracy to commit robbery.
Wall ruled there was insufficient evidence to show Saul Williams Jr. took part in a robbery at a convenience store in the hours before the deadly shootout with Nettleton inside the officer's garage.
"We had a good day in court today," Deputy Public Defender Joseph Abood said after the hearing.
But Williams, 20, is still in deep trouble. He and Prentice Marshall, 18, are the only two who could face the death penalty if convicted when their trial concludes early next year.
Although Deputy Public Defender Dan Silverstein, Abood's co-counsel, was successful in getting the robbery charges dropped when a witness failed to identify Williams as being at the scene, his attempt to get the entire indictment dismissed failed.
Silverstein also failed to convince Wall the grand jury was biased.
He said one juror had openly expressed sympathy for Nettleton's family before evidence was presented and another juror knew one of the witnesses.
"There was no effort to protect Mr. Williams' rights," said Silverstein. "There was bias from the get-go."
Silverstein alleged the grand jury also was aware the six were members of a gang prior to that evidence being entered. Prosecutor Pam Weckerly argued the allegation was "just plain inaccurate."
Defense attorneys James Oronoz and Michael Pandullo, representing Michael Ferguson, were unsuccessful in getting accessory to murder charges dismissed. Ferguson, 25, and his 18-year-old half-brother, Emmitt, are accused of hiding the gun used in the Nov. 19 shooting.
Three other defendants, Marshall, 18; Quadrae Scott, 18; and Adrian Pena, 17, face murder charges. Marshall, accused of firing the shot that killed Nettleton, and Williams may face the death penalty. Pena will be tried as an adult.
Nettleton had been with the Metropolitan Police Department for three years. He died shortly after he was shot in his garage late at night at his home near Lone Mountain Road and Donna Street.
Following Wednesday's hearing, Pandullo said he expects "many more" hearings will take place between now and the trial. One, he said, will address the issue of asking for a separate trial for the Ferguson brothers.
"Our guy's charged as an accessory," he said. "It's not right for him to sit (in jail) for a year. Some of these guys are looking at the death penalty."
Contact Review-Journal reporter Doug McMurdo at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-380-8135.