Motion hearings continue in Meier proceedings
MINDEN – Douglas County Deputy District Attorney Thomas Perkins on Monday said evidence that Monte L. Meier regularly battered his wife is not being used to discredit the defendant’s character.
“I’m not trying to prove (Meier) is a bad man,” Perkins said. “I’m trying to prove this was a murder. The fact that some of this stuff may make it look like he had a bad character does not make (the evidence) inadmissible.”
Perkins made the statements during a hearing on defense motions to suppress evidence prosecutors hope to use against Meier in a trial scheduled to begin April 7 in Douglas County District Court.
The defendant, 57, is charged with murdering his wife, Julie, in 1994, and hiding her remains in a shallow grave behind the couple’s house on Hawthorne Way in Stateline. Meier is also charged with possession of forged documents and destruction of evidence.
Meier’s attorney, Terri Steik Roeser, wants to keep evidence of Meier’s alleged spousal abuse out of next month’s trial.
Roeser contends that evidence of the defendant’s “prior bad acts” should not be allowed, because it would only discredit her client’s character without actually proving that Meier killed his wife.
Nevada law prohibits evidence used to simply demonstrate defendants’ character flaws.
However, Perkins believes witnesses’ statements about the defendant’s history of spousal abuse support the prosecution’s theory that Meier battered his wife to death. Therefore, he argued that it is crucial evidence the state needs to prove its case.
“You can’t say he’s a wife-beater, but you can use evidence of prior bad acts to show he did this (beat his wife) again,” Perkins later said.
Monday’s hearing included testimony from eight witnesses who claimed they saw Julie Meier bruised on numerous occasions dating back to the 1970s. Of these, only Mendi Dunning, the Meiers’ 33-year-old daughter, said she actually saw the defendant strike his wife.
Margaret Valenzuela, a woman who worked in Stateline casinos with the victim, recounted numerous occasions when Julie Meier showed up at work bruised and crying – confiding to co-workers that her husband hurt her.
“You’d notice she’d be upset or notice she had trouble moving around,” Valenzuela said.
Valenzuela also said co-workers several times had to cover for Julie Meier at work, because her injuries left her needing rest.
Besides their impacts on a jury’s perception of Meier’s character, Roeser argued that statements like these should not be allowed in next month’s trial because they are not corroborated by other evidence.
Judge David Gamble has yet to rule on which witnesses, if any, he will allow to testify about the defendant’s alleged history of beating his wife.
Gamble on Monday also listened to Roeser’s arguments for suppressing statements that Meier made to Douglas County sheriff’s deputies on May 16, 1996, the day investigators unearthed Julie Meier’s remains.
Roeser contends that the officers unlawfully coerced statements from Meier about the location of the grave and obtained other incriminating evidence without properly advising her client of his Miranda rights, including the right to remain silent.
As more than 20 officers served a search warrant at the house, four detectives interrogated Meier. During this time, they allegedly promised to make things easier for him if he showed them the location of the grave. Roeser argued that a reasonable person would have thought they were in custody if placed in the same situation that Meier was in at the time.
Perkins is scheduled today to make his arguments on the admissibility of Meiers’ statements.
Although relevant evidence, Perkins does not think prosecutors would suffer a significant blow if Gamble suppressed Meier’s statements, because investigators reported finding the grave without Meier’s help.
“We can proceed without the evidence,” Perkins said. “We (investigators) found the body independent of his statements, and he did not admit to anything.”
Julie Meier, then 50, was reported missing on May 17, 1994, by one of her daughters who became concerned when she was unable to contact her mother in Stateline via telephone. Monte Meier initially told authorities that she had left to find work in Laughlin, Nev.
In was not until nearly two years later that Meier reportedly admitted to his daughter that his wife was buried in the yard, prompting investigators to obtain the search warrant that led to the discovery of the woman’s remains and Meier’s arrest.
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