By Chris Saldaņa - Klas-Tv.com
June 8, 2006
A jury has recommended four sentences of life in
prison with the possibility of parole after 40 years for Terrell Young.
Young was convicted of killing 20-year-old Tracey
Gorringe, 20-year-old Peter Talamantez, 19-year-old Matthew Mowen and
19-year-old Jeffrey Biddle. The murders happened 8 years ago and the
case continued through two retrials of two different defendants.
The most recent trial was interrupted several times
by the disruptive behavior of Terrell Young delaying the trial for weeks.
The possibility of parole after 40 years is what has
the families of his victims upset. And in typical Terrell Young style,
Wednesday's punishment phase was far from quiet.
Ten correction officers were on hand ready for
Terrell Young's punishment to be read. Young was quiet for the most part
until his verdict was about to be read. Refusing to stand up, correction
officers were forced to make him stand and listen.
The jury handed down four counts of life in prison
with the possibility of parole after 40 years. His victims' families
Jennifer Mowen said, "I'm completely in shock right
now. He's killed four people. He's been convicted twice now and they're
going to give him parole."
Before the verdict was read, Jennifer Mowen, who's
brother was killed in the crime Young was involved in, said she and her
family were confident he'd get life in prison without parole.
"I had no concern. My concern was them finding him
guilty. Once they found him guilty my concern was that they'd give him
life without parole. I had no doubt," Mowen said.
Doubt that in the end the jury saw different.
Mowen continued, "I hope they realize what they did.
I thank them for their time. I know it's not easy, but it should not
have been that lenient of a sentence.
Young will be sentence on July 12th. The death
penalty was not an offer in this case.
There were two other accomplices in this crime. Sikia
Smith was sentenced to life in prison. Donte Johnson also won a retrial
but in the end that jury sentenced him to death.
Victims' families reacted with
dismay Thursday to a Nevada Supreme Court decision that granted a new
trial to a man convicted of killing four young men in 1998.
The justices ruled that District
Judge Joseph Pavlikowski did not adequately probe an ongoing conflict
between Terrell Young and his court-appointed attorneys, Lew Wolfbrandt
and Marty Hastings.
"I think the people at the Supreme
Court should be randomly checked for drugs, because this was a heinous
crime," said Juanita Aguilar, 47, the mother of victim Peter Talamantez,
17. "Four boys were killed, and this goes on and on for the families
when these kinds of things happen."
David Mowen, father of 19-year-old
victim Matthew Mowen, lamented that his family will have to endure
"It's been 2,323 days and it just
never seems to end," Mowen said. "I'm very upset about it, very angry
with it. ... I just don't want to go through another trial again. It's
been over six years, and I haven't had an opportunity to really heal yet."
On appeal, Young contended his
attorneys rarely visited him in jail and did not conduct an adequate
investigation before his trial.
In their ruling, the justices said
Pavlikowski should have more vigorously inquired about the differences
between Young and his lawyers.
"People have a fundamental right to
a fair trial, and in this case, he was denied that right," Young's
appellate attorney, Karen Connolly, said Thursday.
In 1999, Young was found guilty of
murder and sentenced to life in prison in the deaths of Mowen,
Talamantez, Jeffrey Biddle, 19, and Tracey Gorringe, 20.
The four were bound with duct tape
and shot in the head during a robbery at an east Las Vegas home in
Authorities said the robbers had
hoped to find large amounts of money and drugs. Instead, they netted
less than $300, a videocassette recorder, a Nintendo game player and a
Young, now 25, was one of three men
charged in the slayings. Sikia Smith is serving life in prison.
Triggerman Donte Johnson was
sentenced to death by a three-judge panel, but the Nevada Supreme Court
overturned that sentence in December 2002 after the U.S. Supreme Court
ruled juries should make such decisions. He is awaiting resentencing.
Young's September 1999 trial was
filled with bizarre, sometimes violent, developments.
During jury selection, Young
cleared the defense table of all documents, overturned the prosecution
table and tossed a chair at the jury box.
He was fitted with a stun belt when
he returned to court. He then spat on his attorneys and was subdued by a
jolt of electricity.
Two weeks later, as the jury
forewoman read the guilty verdicts, Young berated her after a nervous
smile played across her face. "What's so funny about it?" he demanded,
prompting the woman to cry so hard she couldn't continue for about a
After court was adjourned that day,
the defendant's mother, Willena "Maria" Warren, attacked Wolfbrandt
inside the courtroom, aiming blows at his face and back while screaming
When he was returned to the Clark
County Detention Center that same day, Young waited until his stun belt
was removed, then attacked a guard. When another guard came to the
rescue nearly a minute later, he found Young straddling the officer and
pounding his face with both hands.
Jurors decided not to sentence
Young to death, instead opting for a sentence of life without
possibility of parole.
At a subsequent hearing in which
that sentence was formally imposed, Young smiled as the victims'
families described their agony.
Given a chance to speak, Young said
his smiles were an attempt to mask his own pain.
Young's displeasure with his
attorneys was apparent well before he spat on them.
According to the Supreme Court
ruling, Young complained to Pavlikowski about his attorneys on five
occasions. Twice, he filed motions asking that they be replaced.
The justices said Pavlikowski
should have made a more detailed inquiry into Young's complaints.
"For example, the district court
failed to inquire in any depth about Young's complaints regarding a lack
of communication, Wolfbrandt's failure to file any pretrial motions,
Wolfbrandt's failure to contact any witnesses, and more importantly, why
Wolfbrandt had violated the district court's order to visit Young weekly,"
according to the ruling.
Wolfbrandt declined comment
At trial, he told Pavlikowski he
filed the motions he considered meritorious and spoke to Young's family
and friends. He acknowledged he did not visit the capital murder
defendant each week, but said the visits he did make bore fruit.
The Supreme Court's decision to
grant Young a new trial was the latest in a series of rulings
overturning high-profile convictions or death sentences.
On Wednesday, the court reversed
the 1996 murder conviction of James Meegan, sentenced to life in prison
for the death of his 10-month-old daughter, Francine. The court said a
faulty jury instruction was given in the case.
"The faulty instruction resulted in
a verdict that didn't take into consideration the intent of the alleged
crime or the intent of the alleged perpetrator," said Meegan's appellate
attorney, Chris Oram.
Chief Deputy District Attorney
Chris Owens said he knows of six death penalty sentences in which the
penalties recently were sent back to District Court by the Supreme Court
"They are coming back faster than
we can seem to get them back in for new trials," Owens said.
District Attorney David Roger said:
"The Supreme Court rulings tend to go in cycles. At the present time, we
are starting to see a lot of reversals, but we are not going to back
down. We will retry these cases and make sure justice is served.
"These are pretty major cases which
take up a lot of resources, but we will bare down and retry these cases,
assuming our witnesses are still around."
Albert Talamantez, father of Peter
Talamantez, said he was upset by the justices' decision to grant Young a
new trial. "I have to go through it all over again," he said.
Despite his frustration with the
ruling, David Mowen, the father of Matthew Mowen, predicted Young will
never be a free man.
"I surely don't have a concern
about his beating the charges," Mowen said. "Yeah, it could happen, but
I don't see a possibility of that happening."