Friday, 12 April 2024

Motion filed to separate trials of men accused in September stabbing

LAKE COUNTY – With trial set to begin early next month, one of the men charged with a September murder is asking the court to allow him to be tried separately from his co-defendant.


Melvin Dale Norton, 38, and Shannon Lee Edmonds, 35, are facing trial for the Sept. 22 stabbing death of 25-year-old Shelby Uehling, who had moved to Clearlake from Montana several months before he died.


Prosecutor Art Grothe said jury selection is tentatively scheduled for Jan. 12, and he couldn't estimate how long it might take to choose a jury for the case.


However, those plans could change due to a new motion filed by Stephen Carter, Norton's attorney.


Carter's motion seeks to have the two men – who have made joint court appearances since their arrests, including their Oct. 6 preliminary hearing – tried separately.


“We are bringing this motion because it is in our client's best interests to do so,” Carter said this week.


Norton faces charges including murder, being an accessory and a strike enhancement; Edmonds also faces a murder charge plus a special allegation of using a knife. They've pleaded not guilty to all charges.


At the Oct. 6 preliminary hearing, visiting Judge Raymond Giordano of Sonoma County found there wasn't sufficient evidence to charge Norton with assault with a deadly weapon likely to cause great bodily injury or a special allegation that he used a billy club to beat Uehling, as Lake County News has reported.


However, those charges have once again been filed against Norton, according to court records.


Carter's motion argued that trying the men together could result in an “extremely prejudicial association” because of the public attention focused on Edmonds beginning in December 2005, when he allegedly shot to death Christian Foster and Rashad Williams as they ran from his home during a burglary.


Edmonds was not charged in the case, but Renato Hughes, a friend of Foster and Williams, later was tried under the provocative act law, which allows a person to be prosecuted for any deaths that result from a violent crime in which they took part, and which could be expected to have a lethal result.


The trial had extensive local and regional media coverage, and as a result was moved to the Bay Area, as Lake County News has reported.


Carter suggested in the motion that Edmonds is “necessarily and inextricably associated” with the Hughes case, and that affiliation “is extremely prejudicial to Mr. Norton and will jeopardize Mr. Norton's right to a fair trial.”


In addition, some of Edmonds' testimony from Hughes' preliminary hearing has been introduced as discovery in the Uehling murder case, according to the case documents.


Carter's motion also included a page of discovery in which Edmonds, during a phone call recorded by law enforcement, reportedly made the statement, “Melvin didn't do anything. He was just there. Alright? He didn't do anything ...” As defendants in separate trials, Edmonds could be called to testify about that statement.


Based on a statement in one of the motion's exhibits, Carter's motion stated that Edmonds plans to argue self-defense, while Norton will argue that he isn't responding for Uehling's death, and those two defenses could confuse a jury, the motion suggested.


The hearing on Carter's separation motion is set for 8:15 a.m. Monday, Jan. 4, in Department 3, according to court records.


“I am opposing it,” Grothe said regarding Carter's motion.


The standard for joining defendants in a prosecution is that they were connected in the alleged crime's commission, Grothe said.


“We definitely want to keep them together,” he said.


Doug Rhoades, Edmonds' attorney, said he doesn't plan to support Carter's motion.


“I would oppose that motion also, only because I feel his client has some culpability, which may diminish Mr. Edmonds' culpability, and therefore I'd like them to be tried together,” Rhoades said.


Despite the motion, Grothe doesn't expect the trial to be delayed, noting that neither of the defendants has waived time. That means their proceedings have time limits within the system.


After a judge is assigned, Grothe estimated there will be a number of motions to work through before trial starts.


Both Norton and Edmonds are being held in the Lake County Jail, with bail for each set at $1 million.


E-mail Elizabeth Larson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. . Follow Lake County News on Twitter at http://twitter.com/LakeCoNews and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/pages/Lake-County-News/143156775604?ref=mf .

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