Las Vegas Sun

April 19, 2014

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Witness’ ID of suspect questioned in appeal

CARSON CITY -- A defense attorney told the Nevada Supreme Court Tuesday the jailhouse identification of death row inmate Gregory Bolin was flawed and that his first degree murder conviction should be overturned.

Laura Melia, representing Bolin, said "in many instances he was denied justice and denied the right to a fair trial," in Clark County.

But Deputy District Attorney Gary Guymon argued there was a 100 percent positive identification at trial that Bolin was the man seen near where the body of Brooklyn Ricks was found stabbed to death in a west section of Las Vegas.

Ricks' body was discovered in a house under construction near Cimmaron and Gowan roads by Keith Sirevaag, a foreman at the project on the morning of July 15, 1995. He told police he saw a black man, with a muscular build and a tattoo on his right arm, walking away.

Melia argued Sirevaag saw the alleged assailant for only 20-30 seconds and his attention was then diverted. When he was later taken to the police station after the arrest of Bolin, Melia said Sirevaag felt he was only 50 percent sure that Bolin was the man near the crime scene.

An hour later, Sirevaag phoned police to say he was 75-80 percent sure and Melia said it was not until Sirevaag was in court that he made a positive identification. She said police may have suggested that Bolin was the suspect as Sirevaag was wandering through the police station.

But Guymon said Sirevaag saw Bolin in broad daylight at the scene and described him to detectives. He argued the identification was reliable.

Instead of picking out the suspects from police photos, Sirevaag said he wanted to see the gait and the way the suspect carried himself before making an identification. So Sirevaag was permitted to tour the jail in Las Vegas, looking at all the inmates.

Guymon admitted this procedure was unusual, rather than following the normal procedure of holding a police line up. But one reason this was permitted, Guymon said, was there were no suspects in jail that bore a resemblance to the murder suspect.

Sirevaag finally picked out Bolin after viewing about 150 inmates.

Ricks had left her job at a video store on the Las Vegas Strip around midnight and was not seen again until her body was found in the morning. She had been sexually assaulted and stabbed with a screwdriver. Bolin was known to have frequented the video store and was seen in the parking lot where Ricks had her car that night.

Bolin, now 41, maintains he was at a party with two others until about 5 a.m. and was not involved in the killing. The court took the arguments under study and will rule later.

Melia said the "most blatant" error committed at the trial was to allow into evidence a prior sexual assault conviction Bolin had in Colorado. That happened 20 years before and the circumstances were entirely different, she argued.

She said there was no evidence these crimes were similar and there were no "common marks" between the two offenses. She said then District Judge William Maupin should not have permitted the evidence.

Maupin sits on the Supreme Court now and was excused from hearing this appeal.

The deputy district attorney said this crime was "not remote in time" to the first offense. He said the Las Vegas killing occurred just 15 days after Bolin was released from prison. And he said there were common features in both offenses.

Melia and Guymon argued also whether DNA evidence of a pubic hair found near the vagina of the victim was reliable evidence.

"The DNA results are inconclusive," Melia said.

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