MORRISON – A judge ruled Tuesday that the murder trial of Nicholas T. Sheley may include testimony from the defendant’s wife.
But Judge F. Michael Meersman said during a hearing in Whiteside County court that he wanted prosecutors to re-interview Holly Sheley, 34, to see whether her testimony would be the same.
Prosecutors say she has told authorities that her husband needed money to feed a drug addiction.
Meersman said another interview was especially important because of her arrest in August on a charge of selling $20 worth of heroin in Ogle County. In December, she was arrested in Lee County, where she is accused of stealing a Franklin Grove man’s credit card and using it to buy more than $300 in goods.
Jury selection for Nicholas Sheley’s murder trial is set to start Oct. 22.
Prosecutors want the jury to hear evidence that the drug addictions of the 34-year-old Sheley led him to rob and kill Russell Reed, 93, in his rural Sterling home on June 23, 2008.
Nicholas Sheley’s attorney, Jeremy Karlin, said he was concerned that the “cumulative” weight of the testimony on drugs may have an “unduly prejudicial effect.”
“We run a real risk of a jury convicting Mr. Sheley because they believe he’s a bad apple,” the attorney said.
Meersman agreed that was a concern. He said the question was whether Holly Sheley would testify to her husband’s drug usage and need for money to feed his addiction.
“Her being arrested for an alleged felony doesn’t help your case,” the judge told prosecutors. “If she gets up and says things she never brought out before or recants, both sides are entitled to know.”
He said the state considered Holly Sheley to be a “crucial” witness in proving the motive of her husband.
Prosecutors said they had several witnesses who could testify to Nicholas Sheley’s drug usage.
Assistant Attorney General Steven Nate said he couldn’t say whether the witnesses were qualified to say the defendant was an addict.
“From their testimony, the inference will be that he [Sheley] is an addict,” Nate said.
The judge also discussed issues about jury selection. He mentioned the possibility that the court wouldn’t find any impartial jurors because of publicity about the case.
Whiteside County State’s Attorney Gary Spencer, who has served for three decades, said he hadn’t seen a problem finding fair and impartial juries before, even with a case involving three murders early in his career.
Potential jurors will sit in the County Board meeting room to await their turn to be interviewed. Meersman said he feared that some jurors would “spout off” about the case while waiting, influencing others.
Spencer said a bailiff would be in the room.
“There won’t be a free-flowing discussion,” he said. “There will be a guy in uniform staring over his magazine.”
Sheley is charged with 10 counts of first-degree murder and several other felonies in Reed’s death.
Prosecutors say Reed was the first of eight people – four from Rock Falls – killed by Sheley during a drug- and alcohol-fueled spree in late June 2008.
Sheley already is serving a life term for the murder of Ronald Randall, 65, of Galesburg, one of the eight victims.