James Michael Biela – White, age 26

Sentenced in Washoe County, Nevada
By: a jury
Date of crime: October 2007 – January 2008
Prosecution’s case/defense response: Biela was found guilty of raping and strangling Brianna Denison (age 19), in addition to sexually assaulting two others.  The string of crimes began with the sexual assault of a student in October 2007, followed by the kidnapping and sexual assault of a student in December 2007 and ended with the first-degree murder and sexual assault of Denison.  Public defenders urged jury members to consider that Biela lacked a previous criminal record and was raised in an abusive, underprivileged home where his father beat his mother nearly every day when considering his sentence.  Additionally, they claimed the enormous amount of attention the case received put extreme amounts of pressure on the police who in turn made mistakes.  It was also pointed out that the three assaults were different in the manner in which they were carried out.  Police used DNA samples taken from Biela’s son, that were provided by his ex-girlfriend, to link Biela to the murder.  Moreover, prosecutors painted Biela as a serial rapist who stalked petite women and had a fetish for thong underwear (the two assault victims said the assailant took their underwear).
Sources: Reno Gazette-Journal (NV) 12/6/08 AP DataStream 23:37:55, Reno Gazette-Journal (NV) 12/6/08 (2008 WLNR 26786293), Reno Gazette-Journal (NV) 1/9/09 (2009 WLNR 20813885), 5/27/10 AP Alert – NV 03:39:20, 6/3/10 AP Alert – NV 01:00:57.

Timothy Ramon Burnside – Black, age 26

Sentenced in Clark County, Nevada
By: a jury
Date of crime: December 5, 2006
Prosecution’s case/defense response: Kenneth Hardwick (age 45) was robbed at 5:00 am while sitting in his car at a Jack in the Box drive-through and was subsequently shot and killed.  Burnside was found guilty of the crime and charged with murder, robbery with a deadly weapon and conspiracy for the murder of Hardwick.  A second man, Derrick McKnight (age 28), was the driver of the getaway vehicle and was charged the same as Burnside.
Sources: The Las Vegas Review-Journal (NV) 2/16/07 (2007 WLNR 3261079), US Federal News 5/7/07 (2007 WLNR 9084063), The Las Vegas Review-Journal (NV) 5/8/07 (2007 WLNR 8752698), 6/14/07 AP Alert – NV 01:30:58.

Charles Resse Conner – White, age 36

Sentenced in Clark County, Nevada
By: a jury
Date of crime: June 21, 1985
Prosecution’s case/defense response: Conner was convicted of the murder and rape of US Airman Beth Lynn Jardine (age 23), who he bludgeoned to death with a claw hammer.  DNA from the crime scene was matched to Conner through the national database (bloody fingerprint).  Defense attorneys argued that because Conner was under the influence of alcohol, has thyroid cancer, and was mentally, physically and sexually abused as a child he should’ve received a lesser sentence.  Conversely, prosecutors argued that Conner’s prior conviction of raping a 9-year-old girl suggested he was not likely to change.
Sources: Las Vegas Review-Journal (NV) 7/17/10 (2010 WLNR 14369032), Las Vegas Review-Journal (NV) 7/21/10 (2010 WLNR 14534698), Las Vegas Review-Journal (NV) 7/27/10 (2010 WLNR 14923192), Las Vegas Review-Journal (NV) 8/2/10 (2010 WLNR 15311615), Las Vegas Review-Journal (NV) 10/26/10 (2010 WLNR 21532479).

John Matthias Watson III – White, age 65

Sentenced in Clark County, Nevada
By: a jury
Date of crime: July 12, 2006
Prosecution’s case/defense response: Watson worked as a math teacher for 30 years and saved up roughly 1 million dollars.  Upon learning that his wife, Everilda Watson (age 50), was planning to leave him, he lured he to Las Vegas to celebrate her birthday.  He then shot her in the hotel room and cut her body into pieces with an electric saw.  Prosecutors presented evidence showing his guilt, such as: large amounts of blood in Watson’s Jeep, the fact Watson had used a false identity to book the hotel room, a tarp with his wife’s blood matched one found inn the back of his car, and he was seen on videotape purchasing an electric saw, bleach, incense and odor-absorbent trash bags the day his wife went missing.  Furthermore, Watson had a previous record with the law.  In 1967 he told Oklahoma authorities he had raped and killed a hitchhiker and abandoned the body.  However, no body was ever found and no charges were filed.  In addition, in the early 1970s he was arrested by the Secret Service after threatening President Richard Nixon but was never prosecuted.  Watson contended that his wife had shot herself but had done it in a way to make him look responsible.  He further claimed he panicked thinking no one would believe him so he disposed of the body.
Sources: The Las Vegas Review-Journal (NV) 6/10/10 (2010 WLNR 11885875), The Las Vegas Review-Journal (NV) 6/11/10 AP Alert – CA 13:42:44, Las Vegas Review-Journal (NV) 6/11/10 (http://www.lvrj.com/news/retired-teacher-gets-death-penalty-for-wife-s-murder-96191524.html), 6/13/10 AP Alert – NV 10:30:41, The Las Vegas Review-Journal (NV) 6/13/10 AP Online Regional – US 04:12:53.