New hearing set as James Biela seeks to overturn his conviction

James Biela

The man convicted in the abduction, rape and murder of 19-year-old Brianna Denison is hoping to overturn his conviction.

While the Nevada Supreme Court upheld the conviction and death sentence for James Biela back in 2012, Biela is now bringing forward new claims in an attempt to receive a new trial.

After a brief hearing, Washoe County District Judge Scott Freeman set a July 11 evidentiary hearing to address the concerns.

Biela's new lawyer, Edward Reed, said he will argue Biela received ineffective counsel during Biela's 2010 trial. He said, "If he got ineffective counsel, and that's the reason he was convicted, then this gives him a remedy to challenge the conviction."

Reed is also hoping to poke holes in the DNA evidence presented. Additionally, he will argue there should have been a change of venue due to pre-trial publicity after police dubbed Biela a "serial rapist." In addition to Denison's rape and murder, Biela also stands convicted in the rapes of two other women.

Judge Freeman granted Reed's request for another deposition of Biela's ex-girlfriend hoping to find inconsistencies from her previous testimony.

Deputy District Attorney Jennifer Noble said Biela's claims face an uphill climb. She said, "Unlike a trial, Biela has the burden of proof, and in this case he's alleged 82 claims, and we are confident none of them have merit." She said this type of appeal is typical when defendants are convicted of serious offenses and face lengthy sentences.

Lawyers on both sides agree the appeal process in capital murder cases is lengthy and can take years. Noble said, "What is really important but so unfortunate is this is so hard on the victim's family."

Reed points out that no matter which side prevails in the July 11 hearing, there will be an another appeal to the Nevada Supreme Court. Reed also notes that if Biela is not successful there, he can turn to the federal courts.

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