A group of Carson City friends accused of brutally murdering a Nevada state employee appeared in a Carson City courtroom for the first time Thursday for a scheduled preliminary hearing. The four are possibly facing the death penalty for the death of William McCune. What happened was actually a status conference to officially pair each of the four with attorneys and set the schedule for the next step.
But this was the first time we’ve seen the four defendants. The first time they’ve been together since their arrests. Clothed in their jail garb they entered one by one, eyes downcast. Raul Garcia, Anthony Elliott or Tony Morris as he’s known, Michael Evans and Makyla Blackmore.
Police say they plotted to go to William McCune’s apartment seeking money for drugs. And while Blackmore waited outside the three young men beat McCune to get his credit cards, checks and other items they would later try to pawn. Police say they then dumped his body, wrapped in a blanket into the Carson River.
All are charged with open murder. Whether prosecutors will seek the death penalty is still to be determined. Carson City District Attorney Neil Rombardo had announced on April 10 he would assemble a team of prosecutors to analyze the evidence and reports to determine whether the death penalty is appropriate. Saying Thursday after the hearing, “We're looking at the statutes, the law...looking at the case law. The statutes are clear ... You have to look at aggravators and mitigators.”
The attorney for Evans though, Mark Picker, says the law is on his side.
“There's a specific statute in Nevada law that says only certain factors can be considered for the death penalty,” says Picker, “And so it's a laundry list but it's a fairly short list. And the state cannot go outside of that. They can only use what are called aggravating circumstances to decide whether something is a death penalty case.”
One potential aggravating factor is already evident. That’s McCune’s age. If evidence shows he was bound and tortured that could be another. Each was assigned a public defender. Picker and others were also assigned as death penalty qualified counsel.
At this point the district attorney’s office is going to try all four at once. That could make for a complicated process. We saw the first complication Thursday as they tried to work out a date for the preliminary hearing that fit everyone’s schedule.
That was finally set for July 9, 2013.