Higgs' Lawyer Files Motion for New Trial

An attorney for the man convicted of killing state Controller Kathy Augustine wants a new trial for his client.

Attorney David Houston said one of the jurors who convicted Chaz
Higgs had a chance meeting with a judge involved in another high-profile Reno case.

Houston said the juror happened to chat briefly with Family Court Judge Chuck Weller during a lunch break in the Higgs trial.

Weller allegedly was shot by Darren Mack, who also is accused of
killing his wife, Charla Mack.

Houston contends that meeting, along with the juror's position that the man accused of shooting Weller is guilty, impacted the Higgs case sufficiently to warrant a new trial.

Weller was shot sniper-style in his chambers last year. Darren Mack is charged with fatally stabbing his estranged wife Charla Mack and with shooting Weller, who was overseeing their divorce.

The juror was walking along the Truckee River during the first week of trial when she bumped into Weller, Houston said.

She told Weller that she was a juror in an ongoing case, and he responded: "Oh, you mean the big case?" Houston said. The juror said yes, and they went on to talk about the charges against Mack, Houston said.

The juror told Weller that she could not serve as a juror in the Mack case because she "had made up her mind that Mack is guilty," Houston said. She later told several other jurors about her talk with Weller, he said.

Tom Barb, the chief deputy district attorney who prosecuted the case, said there is no basis for a new trial. He said the matter was brought to the attention of Judge Steven Kosach during the trial but Kosach didn't see a problem with it.

"We knew about that when the jury was still here. Houston told the judge about it and didn't make any noise about it then. I don't know why he's making noise about it now," Barb said Monday.

Barb said Judge Chuck Weller didn't make any inappropriate comments to any jurors.

"The jury didn't talk to Weller about Higgs - absolutely not," he said.

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