Nevada County jury convicts Jason Schuller of first-degree murder | TheUnion.com

Nevada County jury convicts Jason Schuller of first-degree murder

Jurors in the murder trial of Jason Schuller took under four hours Tuesday to convict him of first-degree murder in the death of William Tackett.

The Nevada County jury also found that a special allegation against the 36-year-old Schuller — that he used a firearm to cause great bodily injury or death — was true.

The jury will return Thursday morning to begin the second phase of Schuller's trial. Having found him guilty of murder, jurors now must determine if Schuller — who's pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity — was sane at the time of the March 20, 2016, shooting of Tackett, 67.

"I'm just really relieved that they found him guilty of first degree," said Heather Tackett, William Tackett's daughter, after Tuesday's verdict.

“He knew it was a gun. He knew he was using a gun to kill someone. ... The mental health aspect of this case is a distraction.”

— Assistant District Attorney Chris Walsh

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Assistant District Attorney Chris Walsh said he's pleased with the jury's decision. Micah Pierce, Schuller's deputy public defender, declined comment.

Closing arguments

Attorneys on Tuesday argued their case to jurors, focusing on whether the fatal shooting of William Tackett was intentional and premeditated.

Those elements — intention and premeditation — were critical to prosecutors securing the conviction of first-degree murder in Tackett's slaying.

If jurors had found those elements lacking, they could have convicted Schuller of second-degree murder, which carries a lesser sentence, or acquitted him.

Walsh argued that he proved Schuller knew what he was doing when he shot Tackett at the older man's Banner View Drive home and then fled the scene. Walsh said jurors shouldn't be swayed by arguments that Schuller may have had a mental illness when he fatally shot Tackett.

Instead Walsh asked the jury to examine evidence, including Schuller's own testimony, that shows he intentionally shot Tackett nine times in the head and once in his hand.

"There's no such thing under the law as delusional self defense," Walsh said.

Jurors heard during the trial from Schuller, who said Tackett admitted to being Lucifer and tried to attack him with a knife. Schuller then grabbed a gun and shot him.

Walsh told jurors that during the first phase of the trial the defense couldn't argue that Schuller didn't have the mental ability to commit murder. They must presume that he is sane.

"He knew what it was," Walsh said. "He knew it was a gun. He knew he was using a gun to kill someone. He reloaded the weapon when it ran out of bullets. He fled from the police because he knew he had just murdered someone. The mental health aspect of this case is a distraction."

Defense

Pierce, who represents Schuller, said his client suffered from a severe mental crisis at the time of the shooting. Pierce argued that Schuller had no premeditation or deliberation about Tackett's death, and that his odd behavior in the weeks before the shooting — talking about snipers and in an encounter with police mentioning the anti-Christ — proves it.

"He believed that Mr. Tackett was a physical threat to him and that's why he killed Will Tackett," Pierce said.

Pierce referenced witnesses who he said testified about Schuller talking about things that didn't exist. He'd talk to himself, was concerned about snipers and thought he had a microchip in his head.

Schuller left his ID in Omaha and began driving to Grass Valley in the days before Tackett's death. In Winnemucca, Nevada, police encountered him the day before the shooting, Pierce said.

During that encounter Schuller returned to common themes — being chosen by God or the government, undergoing tests and fearing people attacking him.

"Is that person deliberating and premeditating the death of Will Tackett?" Pierce asked.

To contact Staff Writer Alan Riquelmy, email ariquelmy@theunion.com or call 530-477-4239.