James Kenneth Matlean pleaded not guilty Monday to first-degree murder with use of a deadly weapon, denying that he shot Benjamin Oxley to death as the 36-year-old man slept in his Johnson Lane home in February 2008.
District Judge Michael Gibbons set a two-week trial to begin July 19. A status hearing is Jan. 24.
Chief Deputy District Attorney Tom Gregory said he had not decided whether to seek the death penalty against the 23-year-old man who has been in Douglas County Jail for one year on a probation violation in an unrelated case.
“We will make that decision within the time allotted by the Supreme Court,” Gregory told Gibbons.
He has 30 days from Monday, the day the criminal information was filed, to make the decision.
Matlean's attorney, Ken Stover of Reno, said his client waived his right to a trial within 60 days. He also said he would not be challenging any proceedings in East Fork Justice Court.
Matlean was bound over to district court Nov. 30 at the conclusion of a preliminary hearing in justice court.
“If not for the testimony of Devon Mitchell, I would have had my client stand silent today and would have filed a writ,” Stover said.
Mitchell testified he heard his mother Dawn Oxley and Matlean drunkenly discussing killing the victim Feb. 20, 2008, the night before he was shot to death.
Stover said Dawn Oxley's testimony was “absolutely incredulous.”
She is the murder victim's former wife and Matlean's ex-girlfriend.
Dawn Oxley, 38, was granted immunity from prosecution for any involvement in her ex-husband's death in exchange for her testimony against Matlean.
She denied any involvement in Benjamin Oxley's death and said her son was mistaken about what he overheard.
Stover also pointed out he didn't have an opportunity cross-examine witness Eric Thompson who shared a jail cell with Matlean and claimed the defendant admitted shooting Oxley because Dawn Oxley didn't like her ex-husband.
Thompson died Nov. 17 in South Lake Tahoe. He was to be arraigned Tuesday in Douglas District Court on charges stemming from a vehicle break-in and burglary at Big 5 Sporting Goods in Minden on Sept. 14.
The El Dorado County coroner said a cause of death had not been determined, pending autopsy results.
Stover said Monday he would make a decision about a bail request for his client after the district attorney decides on the death penalty.
“If on Jan. 24, the district attorney is not seeking the death penalty, you should expect to see a bail motion,” Stover said.
Matlean answered “not guilty,” when Gibbons asked for his plea. He was silent during the rest of the brief proceeding.
Matlean has been in custody since last December when he was arrested for a parole violation on an unrelated charge. He has been held without bail since he was charged in June with Benjamin Oxley's murder.
Dawn Oxley also is in custody for probation violations.
In the past two years, she has been convicted of two counts of driving under the influence, domestic battery and arrested for possession of a dangerous drug, and contributing to the delinquency of a minor.
She served six months in Douglas County Jail for the DUIs after she violated terms of her release by drinking.
She went back to jail June 22 for a week for drinking in violation of her release on the first domestic battery charge.
Her probation was revoked Sept. 7 after she admitted drinking vodka and a second domestic battery offense.
She was sentenced to 160 days in jail with credit for time served. Her release date was set for Feb. 8, but because she earned trusty status and good-time credits, Dawn Oxley is to be released Dec. 20.
She has not been charged in connection with her former husband's murder.
Trusty status is given to inmates who work in the jail depending on the nature of their offenses and length of sentence.
Trusties can earn up to 10 days a month off their sentences. In addition, all inmates are automatically awarded five days of good time per month by federal law as long as they obey the rules.
Deputy Kai Weaver said Oxley was working in the jail laundry.
“Trusties have to follow all the rules,” Weaver said. “She (Oxley) has done everything she has to do.”