Nielsen Murder Trial will Resume in January

Nielsen Murder Trial will Resume in January

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LOGAN, Utah (AP) -- Despite an appeal before the state Supreme Court on evidence in the Cody Lynn Nielsen murder case, Nielsen's trial will resume next month, a judge has ruled.

First District Court Judge Clint S. Judkins ruled Friday that the trial will resume as scheduled Jan. 6. Meanwhile, the Utah Supreme Court is reviewing whether taped jailhouse interviews can be introduced as evidence.

Defense attorneys for Nielsen filed a motion for a stay in the trial in November after the Supreme Court agreed to review the appeal. However, prosecutors have agreed to present their case without introducing the taped interviews in order to move the trial along since the appeals process is expected to take between 18 and 24 months to review.

Judkins ruled in June that the taped interviews conducted Jan. 20 and 22 with Cache County Chief Deputy Bob DeGasser and Sgt. Chad Jensen could be used as evidence. The interviews reportedly reveal information about the circumstances of Trisha Autry's death.

Nielsen is accused of kidnapping and sexually abusing the then-15-year-old girl, then beating her to death, dismembering her body and burning and burying the pieces. The girl was missing for nearly a year before some of her remains were unearthed in May 2001 at the Predator Research Laboratory in Millville, where Nielsen had worked at the time of the slaying.

In addition to capital murder, charges against Nielsen include obstructing justice, abusing or desecrating a dead human body, forcible sexual abuse, aggravated kidnapping and kidnapping.

The Cache County Attorney's Office has agreed not to introduce the taped evidence during trial, but wants the option of using them to impeach Nielsen if he takes the stand in his own defense, special prosecutor for the Cache County Attorney's Office Scott Wyatt said.

Defense attorney Shannon Demler said no decision has been made whether Nielsen will testify but hinted at the possibility after Friday's status hearing.

"Jurors want to hear the defendant say he's innocent," Demler said.

Judkins said the first week of the trial will focus solely on selecting 12 jurors and two alternates from a 150-person jury pool. Attorneys will question 20 potential jurors each morning and another 20 each afternoon for four days.

"We're going to have to work hard to get our jury picked that week," Judkins said.

JoAnn Autry, Trisha's mother, said after the hearing Friday -- the day her daughter would have turned 19 -- she was glad the trial was expected to proceed as scheduled.

"I'm elated," she said. "It's time."

Another status hearing in the case is scheduled for Dec. 29.

(Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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