Insanity defense begins

Wealthy Reno pawnshop owner Darren Mack abused illegal drugs to intensify his sexual encounters, but the drugs eventually made Mack so delusional that he shot the judge presiding over his divorce — after first killing his estranged wife in self-defense, defense attorneys said Wednesday.

“Darren’s mind was essentially raped, by the drugs, of his reason and judgment,” lawyer David Chesnoff told jurors during opening statements Wednesday.

Mack, 46, is pleading not guilty and not guilty by reason of insanity to the murder and attempted murder charges against him. He does not have to delineate which defense he is using for each charge until after the prosecution concludes its case. But in the defense’s two-part opening statement, lawyer Scott Freeman alleged that 39-year-old Charla Mack threatened her husband with a gun before he fought back to defend himself. Chesnoff then told the jury Mack was out of his mind when he shot the judge “to send a message.”

Prosecutors Christopher Lalli and Robert Daskas said that Mack was a methodical, cold-blooded killer. He plotted to end his heated divorce by killing Charla Mack and assassinating Family Court Judge Chuck Weller, the prosecutors said.

“It was a plan formulated and memorialized by the defendant in his own writing,” Daskas said, referring to what appeared to be a “to-do” list authorities found in Mack’s Reno town house. Included on the list were: “end problem” and “parking garage-if yes.”

Mack is accused of shooting Weller in the chest sniper-style from a parking garage across from the judge’s courthouse office. Weller survived and is expected to testify during the trial. At the time, Mack had been trying to appeal his divorce settlement.

On June 12, 2006, Charla Mack drove to her husband’s town house to drop off their daughter, then 8 years old, because they shared custody.

While the girl was upstairs watching TV with a close friend of her father’s, Darren Mack stabbed Charla at least six times, Daskas said.

Defense attorneys painted Charla as a physically and verbally abusive wife. Her own step-grandmother, whom Mack believed to be clairvoyant, predicted Charla would one day stab her husband and that prediction prompted him to start carrying around a knife, his lawyers said.

Freeman said Mack had loved his wife so unconditionally that he allowed her to have sex with other men and women so that she could satisfy her sexual appetite.

Daskas said it was the other way around, that Charla Mack accommodated her husband’s interests in alternative sexual encounters and his interest in “wife-swapping.”

On the morning of her death, Charla Mack had demanded Darren Mack’s family pay her or Mack would never see his daughter again, Freeman said. “She came to threaten Darren into submission,” he said.

When Darren Mack walked away from the argument, she pushed him and a fight ensued, Freeman said.

When Mack’s .22-caliber gun fell out of his pocket, Charla grabbed it and tried to shoot Mack, but the gun misfired, Freeman told the jury.

As she cocked the hammer again to fire, Mack lunged at her. As they fought, he pulled out his knife and plunged it into her carotid artery, Freeman said.

His friend and daughter left the house through the front door as Darren Mack, “on auto-pilot,” contemplated an array of escape plans, including surviving in the Northern Nevada mountains, Chesnoff said.

Instead, Mack headed for the airport, but on his way he saw the courthouse and decided to send a message to the family court system, Chesnoff said.

In May 2006, Mack had been so angry about Weller’s rulings against him in his divorce case that he had contacted a fathers’ rights advocacy group and agreed to a videotaped interview.

In that interview, which prosecutors played for the jury, an obviously agitated Mack compared his contentious divorce proceedings to the Revolutionary War.

“Step up like our forefathers did back in 1776,” he said, urging the fathers and soon to be ex-husbands of Nevada to rise up against the “tyranny” and “injustice” of family court.

In the interview, taped 18 days before Mack killed his wife and shot the judge, Mack spelled out his motive for his crimes, prosecutors said.

“The defendant’s anger brewed,” Daskas said. “Darren Mack had a problem, and 18 days later he found a solution to that problem.”

Killing his wife was the “end problem” entry on his notepad, Daskas said.

Chesnoff, however, said the interview was evidence that Mack was suffering from a serious mental illness.

“If that’s not delusional, I don’t know what is,” Chesnoff said. “He was basically comparing himself to Ben Franklin.”

“God’s telling him to exercise his Second Amendment rights and end this tyranny,” Chesnoff said.

After firing the shot into Weller through a window of the Washoe County courthouse, prosecutors say, Mack drove to Mexico, where he was arrested 11 days later.

The trial was moved to Las Vegas after District Judge Douglas Herndon determined that Mack couldn’t get an impartial jury in Washoe County.

Mack, a broad-shouldered former bodybuilder, showed little emotion as he sat in a dark suit next to his attorneys. His face reddened as he heard prosecutors describe Charla Mack dying on the floor of his garage as the couple’s daughter watched television upstairs.

Daskas showed pictures of the fit and petite woman lying on the cement floor with a gaping slash at the base of her neck.

After opening statements, prosecutors began calling the first of more than 200 people on the witness list for the trial: Katherine Raven, the forensic pathologist who performed the autopsy on Charla Mack.

Raven said her carotid artery, esophagus and trachea had all been cut.

Raven identified at least six stab wounds on Charla Mack’s body, including wounds on her right forearm, right elbow, left wrist and right leg. The wounds could have been sustained while Mack was trying to fend off an attacker, she said.

“It is consistent with defensive wounds,” Raven said.

Dominic Gentile, a longtime Las Vegas defense attorney who watched the openings Monday on television, said he believed the jury understands that emotions are aroused during a divorce. “It doesn’t take much to push someone over the limit and have an act of violence,” he said, adding that the jury might convict Mack of voluntary manslaughter if they feel he was provoked but not in fear for his life.

“But the second part, that’s the part that’s a little tougher,” he said of the judge’s shooting. “The question becomes: Was he in such a state of mind, so broken down after the homicide occurred that he basically acted as an insane person? The problem with that is there is going to have to be an explanation as to what looks like very deliberate planning.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report. Contact reporter K.C. Howard at khoward@reviewjournal.com or (702) 380-1039.

ad-high_impact_4
News
Clark County Schools announce random searches
Clark County School District middle and high school students will be subject to random searches for weapons under a new initiative to combat the wave of guns found on campus. (Amelia Pak-Harvey/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Ron Jeremy and Heidi Fleiss React to Dennis Hof's Death
Ron Jeremy and Heidi Fleiss speak about their friend and prominent brothel owner Dennis Hof's death at Dennis Hof's Love Ranch. (Benjamin Hager/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Nevada brothel owner Dennis Hof has died
Nevada brothel owner and Republican candidate for Nevada State Assembly District 36, Dennis Hof has died. He was 72. Nye County Sherriff's office confirmed. Hof owned Love Ranch brothel, located in Crystal, Nevada.
Las Vegas police investigate suspicious package at shopping center
Las Vegas police evacuated a southeast valley shopping center at Flamingo and Sandhill roads early Tuesday morning while they investigated reports of a suspicious package. (Max Michor/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
The Las Vegas Metro hosts the K-9 Trials
The Las Vegas Metro K-9 Trials returns to the Orleans Arena to benefit the Friends For Las Vegas Police K-9 group.
Kingman residents love their little town
Residents of Kingman, Ariz. talk about how they ended up living in the Route 66 town, and what they love about their quiet community. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Service at Southern Nevada Veterans Memorial Cemetery
Twelve unclaimed veterans are honored at Southern Nevada Veterans Memorial Cemetery in Boulder City in Oct. 9, 2018. (Briana Erickson/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Las Vegas house prices reach highest level in 11 years
Las Vegas house prices are rising But so is the amount of available homes on the market Still, properties priced below $300,000 are selling fast And September was the first time since June 2007 that the median house price reached the $300,000 mark Las Vegas home prices have been rising at one of the fastest rates in the country over the past year Recent data show the market is now less affordable than the national average
National Night Out
About 100 Summerlin residents gathered at Park Centre Dr. in Summerlin on Tuesday for National Night Out. Lt. Joshua Bitsko with Las Vegas Metro, played with 3-year-old David who was dressed as a police officer. Face painting, fire truck tours and more kept kids busy as parents roamed behind them. (Mia Sims/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Rural homeless issue comes to a head in Pahrump
On Sept. 12, Pahrump sheriff deputies told residents of a homeless encampment on private property that they had 15 minutes to vacate and grab their belongings. That decision might face some legal consequences. (Rachel Aston/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Remembrance blood drive on October 1
A blood drive was held at the Las Vegas Convention Center on the one year anniversary of the Oct. 1 shooting. (Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Remembrance Lights memorial unveiled at St. Rose hospital
A dedication ceremony was held at St. Rose to unveil a memorial and to read the names of those who died on October 1, a year ago. (Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
1October Blood Drive Remembrance Wall
(Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
1October Blood Drive
Vitalent hosts a blood drive at the Las Vegas Convention Center on Monday, Oct. 1, 2018, the first anniversary of the Las Vegas shootings. (Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
1October sunrise remembrance ceremony in Las Vegas
Myanda Smith, sister of Las Vegas shooting victim Neysa Tonks, speaks at the sunrise remembrance ceremony at the Clark County Government Center in downtown Las Vegas, Monday, Oct. 1, 2018. (Chitose Suzuki/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
‪Gov. Brian Sandoval speaks to crowd at Oct. 1 sunrise remembrance ceremony ‬
‪Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval speaks to the crowd at the Oct. 1 sunrise remembrance ceremony ‬at the Clark County Government Center in downtown Las Vegas, Monday, Oct. 1, 2018. (Michael Quine/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Father of Route 91 Harvest festival shooting victim talks about college scholarship in his daughter's memory
Chris Davis, father of a Route 91 Harvest festival shooting victim, Neysa Tonks, talks about a college scholarship in his daughter's memory to assist the children of those who died in the shooting. (Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @bizutesfaye
Oct. 1 survivor Malinda Baldridge talks about life after the shooting
Malinda Baldridge of Reno attended the Route 91 Harvest festival with her daughter, Breanna, 17, and was shot twice in the leg when the gunman fired on the crowd.
Route 91 survivor talks about lack of progress in gun legislation
Heather Gooze, a Route 91 survivor, talks about lack of progress in gun legislation since the Oct 1. (Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas/Review-Journal) @reviewjournal
Review held in death of man after encounter with Las Vegas police
The mother of Tashii Brown, who died after an encounter with Las Vegas police on the Strip, not satisfied after public review of evidence. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Clark County Museum opening "How We Mourned: Selected Artifacts from the October 1 Memorials"
The Clark County Museum is opening an exhibit "How We Mourned: Selected Artifacts from the October 1 Memorials" of items left to honor the victims killed in the Route 91 Harvest festival shooting. (Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @bizutesfaye
Memorial service for former RJ lawyer Mark Hinueber
Mark Hinueber, the Review-Journal's former lawyer and defender of the First Amendment, died in Las Vegas on Aug. 23. Hinueber, who was 66, worked at the RJ and other newspapers for 42 years. On Saturday, his friends and family gathered for a memorial service.
Army veteran honored in Henderson event
Army Sgt. Adam Poppenhouse was honored by fellow veterans in an event hosted by a One Hero at a Time at the Henderson Events Center.
Michelle Obama and Keegan-Michael Key urge Nevadans to vote
Former first lady Michelle Obama and comedian Keegan-Michael Key urged Nevadans to vote at Chaparral High School in Las Vegas Sunday, Sep. 23, 2018. (Marcus Villagran/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @marcusvillagran
Nevada Task Force One Cheers Golden Knights
Nevada Task Force One Cheers Golden Knights
1 dead, 1 wounded in North Las Vegas standoff
A woman was hospitalized with serious injuries on Thursday morning after being shot inside a North Las Vegas house. Police responded about 11 p.m. to a shooting at a home on the 5600 block of Tropic Breeze Street, near Ann Road and Bruce Street. The wounded woman, police believe, was shot by a man, who later barricaded himself inside the house. SWAT was called to assist, and when officers entered the house, they discovered the man dead from an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound.
Las Vegas Teen Makes Clothing Resale His Side Hustle
Las Vegas resident Reanu Elises, 18, started buying and selling streetwear online when he was a high school junior. Like many other young adults, the world of online resale applications like Depop and Mercari have made selling clothing online for a profit easy. Now, Elises spends his free time at thrift shops looking for rare and vintage clothing he can list on his on his shop. Now in his freshman year at UNLV as a business marketing major, Elises hopes to open a shop of his own one day and start his own clothing brand. He estimates that he's made about $1000 from just thrifted finds in the past year, which he'll use to buy more thrift clothing and help pay for expenses in college. (Madelyn Reese/ Las Vegas Review-Journal) @MadelynGReese
Fruition Vineyards Encourages Young Entrepreneurs to "Buy, Flip, Dream"
Once a month, young adults gather at Fruition Vineyards on South Maryland Parkway near UNLV to dig through a stack of rare, vintage and designer clothing that's marked down well below it's resale value. Shop founder Valerie Julian began the vent, dubbed "Fruition Vineyards" in August after running her streetwear shop since 2005. The event gives young entrepreneurs the opportunity to "buy, flip, dream" according to Jean. Meaning that they're encouraged to buy the clothing for sale and find a way to resell it for a profit, then reinvest that into whatever dream they pursue: college, a hobby or their own resale business. Shoppers lined up starting an hour before noon on the last Saturday in April for the opportunity and spoke about what they hoped to do with their finds and profits. (Madelyn Reese/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @MadelynGReese
Local man goes under cover searching for answers to homelessness
Licensed mental health therapist Sheldon Jacobs spent 48 hours under cover posing as a homeless man in an attempt to gain perspective on the complex issue.
Social Work UNLV Lecturer's Calling
Ivet Aldaba-Valera was the first person in her family to graduate from both high school and college. The 33-year-old UNLV lecturer is now pursuing her Ph. D in public policy at the school and has used her degree in social work to engage with the young Latino and Latina community of Las Vegas. (Madelyn Reese/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @MadelynGReese
TOP NEWS
News Headlines
Add Event
Home Front Page Footer Listing
Circular
You May Like

You May Like