Jurors unfazed by Higgs’ suicide attempt, testimony

RENO — Two jurors said the testimony of the husband of former Nevada Controller Kathy Augustine lacked credibility and his suicide attempt during his murder trial was "bogus."

Jury foreman Robert Stapp and juror Tim Nolte criticized Chaz Higgs following his conviction Friday of first-degree murder for killing Augustine with an injection of a paralyzing drug.

The two said they were not convinced that Higgs meant to kill himself by slashing his wrists Tuesday, hours before he was to face cross-examination. The action forced a two-day suspension of the trial.

"The suicide attempt was bogus, totally bogus," Nolte said. "It was just a cry for help. Me, me, me, that’s all it was."

Higgs testified Thursday that he slit his wrists because he thought he had cleared his name in earlier testimony and wanted to be with his wife in death. Higgs also tried to commit suicide three days after Augustine’s death last July.

Higgs earlier testified that he was innocent and he loved Augustine even though he had decided to leave her.

The jurors also said Higgs’ testimony lacked credibility and they were turned off by his lack of emotion.

"He just stared forward all the time," Nolte said. "I thought he was drugged."

Stapp agreed: "He showed us nothing to be cognizant of his presence."

Higgs, a critical care nurse, was accused of killing his 50-year-old wife by injecting her with succinylcholine, a powerful muscle relaxant used to immobilize patients before breathing tubes are inserted. The defense contended she died of heart failure.

The jurors branded as crucial the testimony of nurse Kim Ramey, who said Higgs told her he intended to divorce his wife and went on to refer to another high-profile murder trial pending in Reno that the suspect "did it wrong" by using a knife.

"If you want to get rid of somebody … hit them with a little ‘succs’ because they can’t trace it post-mortem," she quoted him as saying while he gestured as if squeezing a syringe.

"The most striking testimony was Kim Ramey," Nolte said. "If it wasn’t for Kim Ramey, we wouldn’t even be here. Her testimony just blew it out of the water."

Mike Higgs, Chaz’ twin brother, told the Reno Gazette-Journal that the jury made a mistake.

"Twelve people just convicted an innocent man," Mike Higgs wrote in an e-mail. "There is no way in 100 years I’ll believe my brother killed Kathy Augustine. It just couldn’t happen. He’s one of the nicest guys in the world and he’s getting a raw deal."

He also questioned Ramey’s credibility.

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