Judge Weller Says He Suspected Mack

By  | 

A Nevada judge took the witness stand Tuesday to recall being wounded by a sniper-style gunshot through his courthouse window, and pointed across a courtroom to identify Darren Mack as the man he immediately thought shot him.

"That man, right there," Washoe County Family Court Judge Chuck Weller said, as he told a jury that Mack's name was the only one he gave police detectives before he was wheeled into surgery June 12, 2006, at a Reno hospital.

Weller incorrectly called him Darrell Mack at the time, but told Las Vegas jurors he'd been told that Mack was behind Internet Web blogs containing "just horrible attacks on me."

"He'd been in my court in the process of a divorce for more than a year," Weller said.

Mack, 46, sat impassively in the courtroom, where he is being tried on charges he fatally stabbed his estranged wife and then shot Weller, their divorce judge, from a parking structure in downtown Reno.

Mack's lawyers contend that Mack stabbed 39-year-old Charla Mack
in self-defense and snapped into a delusional state before shooting

Weller, who has recovered from chest wounds, found himself on the defensive during pointed cross-examination by defense lawyer David Chesnoff, who tried to suggest that Weller was inattentive and favored Charla Mack in the couple's contentious divorce.

"Sir, just because I didn't know his name doesn't mean I was unfair in the divorce," Weller replied after one question. "I'm diligent about my job, sir."

Weller bristled more later, under questioning about his bottom ranking on a 2006 bar association survey, and about why he didn't remove himself from the Mack divorce after learning Darren Mack was, in Chesnoff's words, "publicly defaming" him.

"Why would I?" Weller said, calling it "absurd" to let criticism from distraught plaintiffs and defendants dictate which judge they should face.

He drew a rebuke from the presiding judge a few minutes later after he adopted a lecturing tone and made an unsolicited comment from the witness stand.

"I've never had my reputation attacked like this," Weller told Chesnoff. "It's unwarranted."

Judge Douglas Herndon, stopped the proceedings, instructed the jury to disregard Weller's comment, and turned to Weller.

"Judge, you know better than that," Herndon said.

Outside the presence of the jury, Chesnoff sought a mistrial, saying he thought Weller's comment would taint the jury's opinion of him and Mack. Chesnoff also cited Weller's reference at one point to the "murder" of Charla Mack.

"I don't think it rises to the level of declaring a mistrial," Herndon replied, ruling that trial would continue Wednesday.

Mack has pleaded not guilty and not guilty by reason of insanity to charges of first-degree murder and attempted murder. He could face life in prison if convicted.

The case drew widespread attention after Weller was shot and Charla Mack's body was found in Darren Mack's town house. Darren Mack was found 11 days later in Mexico.

The trial was moved to Las Vegas after efforts in Reno failed to find an impartial jury.

(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)