James Biela petitions court for retrial in rape, murder of 19-year-old Brianna Denison
The man convicted in the rape and murder of 19-year-old Brianna Denison has returned to a courtroom Monday afternoon.
James Biela's lawyers are arguing that Biela received incompetent counsel in his capital case. in the first day of an evidentiary hearing.
Beila was tried, convicted, and sentenced to death in May 2010 for the kidnapping, rape, and murder of Brianna Denison.
The first person to take the stand was his former lead lawyer, then Public Defender Mazie Pusich. Pusich testified this case received exceptional publicity. She agreed that pre-trial publicity was a big part of the discussion at the time, and acknowledged a change of venue was never granted.
Pusich also testified she believed three jurors were not qualified to sit on the jury, saying they made statements indicating if Biela was found guilty, they were not willing to consider all forms of punishment besides the death penalty.
Biela's lawyer also raised other issues, pounding away that Reno Police detectives expanded Biela's Miranda Rights upon his arrest, telling him he could refuse to answer any question and they would honor his request.
However, her testimony also revealed that this is not a right provided under the constitution, and the prosecution responded by citing Biela's refusal to answer certain questions against him in trial.
She also testified another victim -- who testified in the trial identified as Amanda C -- claims she too was a victim of Biela's.
Pusich testified she believed Amanda C was a victim but not from Mr. Biela. She said that victim claimed she had obtained a disease from Biela that he did not have.
The defense also argued that an anonymous tip led to Biela's arrest, but because that person remained anonymous, Biela did not have the chance to face his accuser.
One final point centered around a defense expert witness; Dr Roger Vincent Miller. Pusich testified the State withheld information regarding which forensic tests were performed. She said she wrote a memo about this saying it was misleading, dishonest and perhaps prosecutorial misconduct -- as the State made it look as though the defense did not do its job when it was the State that withheld that evidence.
This appeal hearing is expected to last several days.