A lawyer for a man accused of double murder said a judge ordered a trial on a lesser charge to be delayed, clarifying that the defense team didn’t request the continuance.

Garland Joseph Nelson of Braymer, Missouri, was scheduled to face trial on April 20 for stealing. Nelson was charged with stealing while he was jailed on murder charges in the July 2019 deaths of brothers Nicholas and Justin Diemel of Wisconsin. He’s alleged to have coerced someone outside of jail to take a tractor-trailer that wasn’t his.

Patrick Berrigan, Nelson’s chief public defender, argues a docket entry in the case falsely states the defense team asked for the continuance. Instead, Berrigan said in a motion that the judge ordered the trial postponed.

“Counsel noted the court had allocated all available seating in the courtroom to (potential jurors). There was no provision made for any member of the public during jury selection,” Berrigan wrote.

A current docket entry in the case indicates it was the defense’s choice to move the trial.

“Court gives defense counsel option of proceeding with trial, that defense counsel had earlier requested or continuing trial to a future date,” the docket entry states. “Defense counsel informs court that the defendant does not wish to proceed with trial.”

Berrigan argued in the motion that Nelson shouldn’t have to choose between his constitutional right to an open trial and his right to a speedy trial.

“Court gives counsel option of proceeding with closed trial,” Berrigan’s proposed docket entry states.

When Nelson refused, Berrigan said it was the judge’s choice to move the trial date. It’s unclear when Nelson’s trial for stealing now will take place. No future date has been scheduled.

Both the media and the victim’s advocate were kept outside the courtroom

Nelson will face a separate trial for murder in June of 2022.

Attorneys spar

over ‘informant’

While the stealing trial remains on ice, attorneys for the state and defense sparred in court documents over how much hearsay evidence should be admitted.

“It is expected that Maj. Kirkendoll will testify that he had gotten information from an informant that the defendant was looking for price information on a semi-tractor truck ... shortly before the truck in question was stolen,” prosecutors wrote in a motion. “Based on that information... (Kirkendoll) retrieved the defendant’s jail calls for the time period leading up to the theft.”

Prosecutors argue Kirkendoll should be allowed to testify about the informant, otherwise the jury may speculate on why Nelson was in jail.

Matt Hoffmann can be reached at matt.hoffmann@newspressnow.com. Follow him on Twitter: @NpNowHoffmann.

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