Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Ted Binion

New Trial Bid

On October 6, 2000, Court TV reported that Tabish and Murphy, having already lost one bid for a new trial, were planning another appeal against their conviction and were still seeking a new trial.  This followed the sentencing of their four co-defendants for their part in the crime.  David Mattsen and Michael Milot, who were accused of helping Tabish dig up Binion's $7 million silver fortune two days after Binions death, pleaded no contest to conspiracy to commit grand larceny, a misdemeanor.

Steven Wadkins and John B. Joseph pleaded no contest to conspiracy to commit extortion, also a misdemeanor. None of the four defendants sentenced faced charges related to Binion's murder but were each sentenced to serve 200 hours of community service or pay fines of $2,000 each.

Almost two months later, on December 13, 2000, Court TV again reported that Ted Binions family was in court in an attempt to win control of his fortune.   Following a submission made on behalf of Binions daughter Bonnie, District Judge Michael Cherry granted summary judgment against Sandra Murphy and Rick Tabish in a wrongful death suit.

The bench ruling by Cherry to grant summary judgment holds Murphy and Tabish liable for Binion's death. The suit was later stayed until the Nevada Supreme Court ruled on Murphy and Tabish's appeal.

The decision by Cherry affirms the murder convictions. In addition, Murphy is barred from collecting any part of the Binion fortune, despite a dictate in his will and the fact that she has filed a $2 million palimony suit.

Bail Denied

On October 12, 2001, Court TV reported that Judge Joseph Bonaventure had refused to release Sandy Murphy on bail pending her appeal.

The decision followed a hearing during which Murphys lawyer, Herb Sachs, had accused the prosecution and Binion's wealthy estate of setting up his client on murder charges.   There was not one witness who was wasn't paid by the district attorney's office or the Binion estate, Sachs said.

Leading the prosecution, David Roger told the judge that Murphy was a flight risk, a danger to the community and didn't deserve to be free on appeal.

A Legal Bombshell

On July 14, 2003, in what Court TV described as a bombshell, the Nevada Supreme Court ordered a new trial for Sandy Murphy and Rick Tabish, ruling that errors by a judge prejudiced jurors against the defendant.

The four-justice majority said Judge Joseph Bonaventure erred in two key areas: in his decision not to hold a separate trial for Tabish on charges he assaulted and blackmailed another businessman, and his instructions to jurors concerning testimony about a conversation between Binion and his estate lawyer the night before his death.

The majority justices said prosecutors never persuasively linked the July 1998 attack on Leo Casey, a partner with Tabish in a $10 million sand pit project, with Binion's death two months later, but the graphic testimony concerning the extortion and torture had a substantial and injurious effect on the guilty murder verdicts for both defendants.

The justices also took issue with the way the testimony of attorney James Brown was presented to jurors.   The justices said Bonaventure should have instructed jurors to consider statements only as evidence of Binion's state of mind, not as fact. The prejudicial impact was great: The statement strongly implied Murphy killed Binion, the justices wrote.

John Momot, Murphy's former trial attorney told reporters, It's a score! The over and under on this was fantastic. It's great." He also said that his client was thrilled with the success of her appeal and eager to be released on bail.

Tabish is not eligible for bail because he must still serve at least 18 months for the Casey assault.

Harvard Law professor Alan Dershowitz, who argued Murphy's appeal before the high court, said he was preparing a very different defense for the retrial and had scientific experts lined up to discredit the prosecution's case.   We'd like to be back in court in 60 days. We're ready, he said.

Clark County District Attorney David Roger told reporters that his office was scrutinizing the decision and weighing whether to ask for a rehearing.

We're going to see if there's any glimmer of hope, but my gut is that there is not, he said.

Roger said he would oppose bail for Murphy.

According to the report, the bill for Murphys appeals has allegedly been paid by a wealthy Irish businessman who lives in Las Vegas but it was unclear whether he would continue to cover her fees.

There is also some speculation regarding Alan Dershowitzs involvement.   I will be involved. that's all I can say, Dershowitz said.

The prosecution team will also change for the new trial. Prosecutor David Wall, who is now a judge, will not be taking part and David Roger has said that his administrative duties will prevent him from trying the case. Two new prosecutors, Robert Daskas and Christopher Lalli, will try the case.

The role of Judge Bonaventure is also unclear but the Court TV report suggested that defense lawyers may ask the judge to excuse himself from the case.

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