The stealing trial of Garland Joseph Nelson, a man who also faces murder charges in the deaths of two brothers, was abruptly postponed on its first day.
Media and the victim’s advocate were kept out of the courtroom while potential jurors were seated. There was an objection from Nelson’s defense team that prevented the case from moving forward Tuesday.
Some 23 potential jurors were initially led into the courtroom, with deputies locking the door behind them.
Special Prosecuting Attorney Stephen Sokoloff and Public Defender Patrick Berrigan apparently conferred with Judge Michael Wagner, who then postponed the trial indefinitely.
Berrigan told News-Press NOW after the hearing that the public’s access to the trial was guaranteed in Nelson’s right to a fair trial.
Sokoloff said that Wagner didn’t believe he could accommodate social distancing rules as mandated by the Missouri Supreme Court while allowing the media and victim’s advocate inside.
After about an hour, all 23 jurors were dismissed and attorneys for both sides packed up boxes full of files on a cart. A portable screen was hauled off by the prosecution after the abrupt end to the day.
A transcript of the closed session, a word-for-word recounting, wasn’t immediately available when requested by a News-Press NOW reporter.
Court convened around 9:30 a.m. in closed session. Jurors were dismissed by 10:30 a.m.
It’s unclear if those jurors will be called back later or if additional jurors will need to be located.
The online court file for Nelson’s stealing case is inaccessible to the public. The trial was scheduled to last through Thursday at the latest.
Sokoloff told News-Press NOW in an email prior to the start of trial that Wagner is concerned about finding an impartial jury with extensive news coverage of Nelson’s two criminal cases.
Nelson’s stealing trial stems from his time in the Caldwell County Jail where he’s been detained after allegedly murdering brothers Nicholas and Justin Diemel. Members of the Diemel family also were not allowed inside the courtroom Tuesday after apparently traveling from Wisconsin.
According to online court records, Nelson’s murder trial remains on track for June of 2022, but it’s unclear if the postponement of the stealing trial could change that.