Legal developments create uncertainty for Superior homicide trials
Trial dates are up in the air for two of the three remaining defendants in the Superior shooting death of Garth Velin, a complex case that has been plagued by legal maneuvering and unexpected issues that have prompted numerous last-minute delays ...
Trial dates are up in the air for two of the three remaining defendants in the Superior shooting death of Garth Velin, a complex case that has been plagued by legal maneuvering and unexpected issues that have prompted numerous last-minute delays in recent months.
For a second time this month, a trial date may be pulled off the Douglas County Circuit Court calendar due to late developments.
District Attorney Dan Blank on Wednesday filed a motion seeking to postpone the scheduled Aug. 31 trial for 21-year-old Kyham Lavon Dunn, citing a number of potential late-developing evidentiary issues.
Evidence and witnesses may “put the defendant directly in the shooting crime scene with knowledge of the shooter Chance Andrews’ reputation for and possession of a handgun,” Blank said in the motion. A hearing on the requested postponement will be held Monday.
Meanwhile, a new attorney has been appointed within the past week to represent Dallas Eugene Robinson, 19, who discharged his previous public defender last month just before his case was set to go to trial.
Robert Thorson, a Chippewa Falls attorney, said during a court hearing Friday that he has already met with Robinson about four times and was working through the voluminous case file, but a new trial date has not been set.
Robinson, who is being held on $75,000 bail, was recently moved to the Chippewa County Jail due to challenges in keeping the co-defendants separated at the Douglas County Jail, and for the convenience of meeting with his new attorney.
Despite some bumps in the road, Blank noted that the cases still have progressed rather quickly, considering the unusual number of defendants in a single homicide case.
“We want the strongest case possible against each of the five that we’ve charged,” he told the News Tribune on Friday. “The attorneys change and the orders of trials get out of whack. It does make for some extra challenges and obstacles. But we just have to stay the course.”
Dunn and Robinson both are charged as parties to murder in the Sept. 30 death of Velin, who authorities said was shot twice during a botched robbery attempt at his Allouez neighborhood home.
The shooter, 18-year-old Chance William Andrews, pleaded guilty in June to a felony murder charge. Later that month co-defendant Kane Michael Robinson, 21, was found guilty of being a party to the crime.
Cases for the three remaining co-defendants have been delayed numerous times, with motions brought by both the prosecution and defense attorneys on various issues.
Blank said he is expecting a stiff challenge when he seeks to have Dunn’s case delayed for a second time. The case previously was scheduled to go to trial in May, but the prosecutor successfully argued for a continuance less than a week before the trial was to begin.
Reiterating a statement that he made three months ago, Blank acknowledged Friday that the Dunn case “may be the weakest” of the five. He said justice would be best served if additional time was allotted to investigate the potential new evidence. Blank has expressed a desire to have Dunn’s case tried last.
However, defense attorney Aaron Nelson strongly opposed the earlier continuance, arguing that “you don't get a continuance just because you have a weak case.” Dunn, who is being held on $100,000 bail, had also placed a speedy trial demand that was not satisfied.
Judge Kelly Thimm will hear arguments on the requested postponement Monday, a week before the scheduled trial date.
A new trial date for Dallas Robinson probably will be scheduled at a Sept. 23 status conference. The final scheduled trial, for 17-year-old Teah Joan Phillips, is set for Oct. 27.
Blank said the potential for plea bargaining remains on the table, but noted that the Velin family has opposed deals for the remaining defendants.
Two sentencing hearings are scheduled for next month: Andrews on Sept. 17 and Kane Robinson on Sept. 23. Blank said he expects both of those hearings to proceed as scheduled, even if the other cases remain unresolved.
“I think proceeding with sentencing will move us toward resolution in the big scheme of things,” he said. “The court will send some sort of message by whatever sentencing decision is made, and potentially that impacts that remaining three defendants.”