CARSON CITY — Chaz Higgs should get a new trial on charges he killed his wife, state Controller Kathy Augustine, because he did not have adequate time to prepare his defense, his attorney told the Nevada Supreme Court on Tuesday.
Attorney David Houston, who represented Higgs at his Reno trial in 2007, said there was inadequate time to analyze the methodology used by the FBI that found that a lethal dose of a muscle relaxant had been administered to Augustine, allegedly by Higgs.
This inability to prepare a proper defense because the FBI failed to turn over requested information in a timely manner should compel the court to give Higgs a new trial, Houston said.
Washoe District Judge Steven Kosach improperly denied a request to delay the trial, Houston told the court.
But Washoe County Deputy District Attorney Terrence McCarthy said Higgs’ defense team received everything it asked for from the FBI well before the trial began.
There was no reason to grant a request to delay the start of the trial, he said.
Chief Justice Mark Gibbons asked both attorneys whether there was enough evidence for a jury to properly convict Higgs without the FBI analysis that found the drug succinylcholine in Augustine’s urine.
McCarthy said there was adequate evidence, including testimony from a witness who said Higgs talked about succinylcholine before Augustine’s death. He acknowledged the case would not have been as strong without the FBI evidence.
Houston said a jury would not be able to convict without the FBI evidence, because the other evidence, including the witness testimony, could be rebutted.
The court, which will rule later in the case, gave no indication of how it would rule.
Dallas Augustine, who is Kathy Augustine’s daughter, said by telephone from Las Vegas that she has full faith the court will reach the right decision in the appeal.
"But on a personal note, this is a very painful time," she said. "It is very stressful. It is not something I wanted to relive."
Higgs, 43, was convicted by a Washoe County jury on June 29, 2007, of murdering Augustine.
He was sentenced to life in prison with the possibility of parole after 20 years.
Higgs’ attorneys have argued that Augustine, 50, might have died of natural causes on July 11, 2006.
Contact Capital Bureau reporter Sean Whaley at email@example.com or 775-687-3900.