Mack: Venue Change From Reno To Vegas Costly, Historic

Moving the Darren Mack murder case from Reno to Las Vegas will be both costly and historic.

Costly in that Washoe County will have to foot a bill conservatively estimated at $100,000.

Historic in that it's only the second documented change of venue for a murder trial in Nevada history.

The price tag comes at a time when Washoe County can ill afford it, according to spokeswoman Kathy Carter.

County officials are grappling with a $14 million shortfall and departments have been forced to cut their budgets by 5 percent.

"It's a bad time any time," Carter said. "But yes, budget-wise, it's a very bad time."

She said the money will have to come from the county's contingency fund, which currently sits at $500,000.

District Judge Douglas Herndon reluctantly granted a defense motion for a change of venue on Thursday after three days of jury selection resulted in the seating of only 12 potential jurors of the 35 needed for the final selection process.

Mack, a wealthy pawn shop owner, is charged with slashing his estranged wife Charla to death June 12, 2006, then shooting the judge who was handling their bitter divorce sniper-style as the judge stood by a window in his chambers.

Judge Chuck Weller has recovered from a chest wound.

When the location of the trial officially moves to Las Vegas, it will mark only the second time a murder case has gone to a different Nevada county, according to state Archivist Guy Louis Rocha.

J.W. Rover was arrested in 1875 for the murder of Isaac Sharp, who was his partner in a sulfur mine in what then was Humboldt County.

After two convictions were reversed, the Humboldt County jury pool was so depleted the case went to Washoe County.

After two more trials, a conviction finally stuck and Rover was hanged in 1878 at the Washoe County courthouse.

Humboldt County was billed for Washoe County's two trials and Reno's only legal execution, Rocha said.

As was the case with Washoe County 130 years ago, Clark County will pay nothing for hosting the trial, according to Hans Jessup, assistant administrator for the Washoe County court.

He said Mack's attorneys would pay the defense expenses and Washoe County would pick up the prosecution costs.

The state already is paying a senior judge to hear Herndon's cases.

Since the charges against Mack involve a Washoe County judge, Herndon was assigned to the case from Las Vegas.

Two assistant Clark County district attorneys were appointed as special
prosecutors after Washoe County DA Richard Gammick disqualified
himself because of his past relationship with Mack and his family.

As many as 200 potential witnesses - most of them from northern Nevada - will have to be flown to Las Vegas and put up there in hotels at Washoe County's expense.

"Public safety is the responsibility of county government," Carter said. "It's something we have to do."