A second tragedy

We were stunned by the Nevada Supreme Court's ruling Tuesday overturning the murder conviction of Brandon Douglas Allan because of a legally flawed confession.

Our sympathies went out immediately to Gayle Farley, a well-known Carson City resident whose daughter, Kellie Parry, was the victim of the October 1999 shooting in Sun Valley.

Not only is Farley known and respected by many, the case took on a larger profile because of her efforts in the Nevada Legislature to strengthen laws on violent threats. The new law for which Farley successfully lobbied, with the help of Carson City legislators, might have prevented her daughter's death.

Through that effort, we never suspected Allan's conviction might be thrown out, and a new trial set. But it has happened. It wasn't the ruling that stunned us, it was the reasons behind it.

The Supreme Court said District Court Judge Jim Hardesty erred when he allowed Allan's confession to be presented as evidence. The reason: Allan was interviewed for more than five hours -- without a lawyer, despite asking for one at the beginning of the session.

In fact, Allan -- who has a lengthy history of brushes with the law, and presumably was well aware of his rights -- asked six times to invoke his right to remain silent, according to the Supreme Court. In addition, a lawyer who tried to talk to Allan while he was being detained was turned away.

The right to have an attorney present and the right not to make self-incriminating statements are black-and-white issues of law. These were clearly human errors leading to a flawed conviction, which has now deepened the wound of a grieving mother.

Farley, lawmakers and the rest of us put a lot of faith in the system. When Nevada's laws let her down, she got them fixed. She turned her anguish into action. Now, the tragedy is that some of the people who must enforce those laws let her down.


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