A trial for Challis resident Mark Wilson, who is accused of the March 24, 2018, murder of housemate Pat Brown, has been rescheduled for June 3.
The trial is still scheduled to be held at the Jefferson County Courthouse in Rigby to ensure an impartial jury.
Wilson will undergo a full psychological examination, not merely a competency evaluation, before the trial, Judge Stevan Thompson ruled.
The judge denied the prosecutor’s request to add a charge of being a felon in possession of a firearm to Wilson’s alleged offenses. Thompson told Prosecuting Attorney Justin Oleson that he could file the charge of felon in possession of a firearm as a separate case. Wilson was convicted of battery with intent to commit a serious felony in 2005, allowing for the weapons possession charge.
Oleson also argued that while Wilson is entitled to a public defender appointed by the court, he is not entitled to the public defender of his choice. Dave Cannon is the contract public defender for Custer County. Jim Archibald, who has been appointed to represent Wilson, is charging more per hour than the county pays Cannon, Oleson said.
That may be so, Thompson said, but Archibald has been on the case for nearly a year. Archibald agreed to a lower pay rate, at the judge’s request, to continue representing Wilson. In response, the judge denied Oleson’s request to appoint Cannon as Wilson’s attorney. Thompson reduced Archibald’s compensation to $100 an hour since life in prison remains a possibility.
Delaying the trial to June allows time for a complete psychological examination to occur and clears up confusion about a previous court ruling. The judge said Wilson was evaluated to determine his competency to stand trial, but a full psychological exam has not been conducted. That doesn’t mean mental illness can be used as a defense during trial, Thompson said, since that’s not allowed under Idaho law. But it does mean Wilson’s mental state can be a factor in sentencing.
The judge was unsympathetic to Oleson’s repeated argument that a fair, impartial jury can be seated in Custer County. Oleson also said driving witnesses from Challis to Rigby and housing them in Rigby is an extreme inconvenience and unnecessary expense for the county.
“We’ve addressed this before,” Thompson said. “I’m going to deny the request” to hold the trial in Challis. “There will be continued pretrial publicity that will impair the ability to seat an impartial jury.”