Las Vegas Sun

December 22, 2014

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Court orders new trial for Las Vegas man found guilty in crime spree

The Nevada Supreme Court said there was enough evidence to find a Las Vegas man guilty in a stolen car crime spree but reversed his conviction due to an error at trial.

The court ordered a new trial for Frankie Alan Watters, who was sentenced to five to 30 years on his convictions of possession of a stolen car, grand larceny auto and failing to stop on the signal of a police officer.

The court, in a decision Wednesday written by Chief Justice Kristina Pickering, said the prosecution during opening statement at the trial, showed a booking photo of Watters with the word "GUILTY" imposed on it.

District Judge David Barker permitted the photo to be used despite objections of defense lawyers.

The court said the photo should not have been allowed because the prosecution is prohibited in opening statements to declare the defendant guilty. Pickering said this should not be permitted to "poison" the jury's mind against the defendant.

The court said the booking slide photo with the word "GUILTY" on it before the first witness was called should not be allowed.

In a footnote to the decision, the court said, "We conclude that the evidence when reviewed in the light most favorable to the state is sufficient to establish his guilt beyond a reasonable doubt."

The court said the charges against Watters involved the theft of a car and he "got in a wreck, fled, stolen another vehicle, became involved in a high-speed chase, ditched the second car, ran into a store and was finally arrested after being knocked to the ground and bitten several times by a police dog."

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