Testimony Monday in Tahoe City murder trial
March 16, 2006
AUBURN – Opening arguments and testimony are scheduled to begin Monday in Placer County Superior Court in the murder trial of Timothy Brooks, who stands accused in the stabbing death of Robert Ash last August in Tahoe City.
Brooks, 26, is charged with murdering the 48-year-old Newcastle, Calif., developer outside of Syd’s Bagelry in Tahoe City on the morning of Aug. 17, 30 minutes after Ash reportedly passed Brooks and his wife on Highway 89 near Squaw Valley. Ash bled to death due to sharp force trauma and was pronounced dead later that night at Washoe Medical Center in Reno.
The jury, which was selected last week, consists of eight men and four women, and three alternates, according to defense attorney Marcus Topel.
Jurors had to complete a 12-page questionnaire that asked specific questions about employment and any affiliation or spouse’s affiliation with the military, law enforcement or the district attorney’s office. The survey also asked about personal views of law enforcement and the criminal justice system. Possible jurors were also required to indicate on the questionnaire if they knew any of the 119 names of possible witnesses provided.
Because Brooks is charged with an open count of murder, the jury is not only tasked with making a verdict in the case – innocent or guilty – but if guilty, to decide to what degree he is guilty. This includes first degree or second degree murder or voluntary or involuntary manslaughter. If a guilty verdict is handed down, trial Judge Robert P. McElhany would sentence Brooks based on the degree of which he was found guilty.
The prosecution is expected to call no more than 10 witnesses during the first week of trial, which includes civilian witnesses, a pathologist from Washoe Medical Center and Placer County deputies.
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Deputy District Attorney Christopher Cattran said he expects to take four days to present his case and that all of his witnesses will be related to the Aug. 17 incident. He said he didn’t know how fast he would go through all of his witnesses. Under law, the prosecution can not call the defendant or character witnesses to the stand.
“You go into these things with a grand plan, but you never know,” Cattran said. “It is always subject to change.”
Defense attorney Topel said he will wait until the prosecution presents its case before deciding who he puts on the stand, including Brooks and his wife, Susanne Brooks. Susanne Brooks was listed as a possible witness on the list provided to jurors.
Topel said he has a different view of the case than what has been reported in newspaper accounts so far and wants to make sure that “the truth that happened gets established.”
“Although it was a very tragic situation, I believe no crime was committed by Tim Brooks,” Topel said.
The trial is expected to last two weeks.
Brooks has pleaded not guilty to the open count of murder and is currently out on $250,000 bail. He is living with his parents in the Bay Area.
Brooks was living in his parents second home in Truckee with his German wife at the time of the incident and had plans to attend graduate school in Monterey.
Ash, who grew up in Incline Village, had been working on projects in Truckee the previous year and was spending time in town before his death. He left behind a wife and a 14-year-old son.
The trial is expected to begin Monday in Department 1 in Auburn.