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James denied new trial

Louis James, convicted in July of the murder of Nevada City native Kenneth Painter, failed in some 11th-hour legal maneuvers to win a new trial.

James is set to be sentenced at 1:30 p.m. today, and friends and relatives of the murder victim were planning to pack the courtroom this afternoon. But they were left pacing the halls Thursday morning as Nevada County Superior Court Judge Sean Dowling heard several motions filed by James’ attorney, Greg Klein.

Klein asked Dowling to postpone sentencing and appoint an independent counsel to review a potential claim of ineffective legal representation.



Nevada County Assistant District Attorney Anna Ferguson, who successfully prosecuted the case despite a tightened timeline forced on her when James refused to waive his right to a speedy trial, told Dowling that decision should remove any potential for an “ineffective assistance of counsel” claim.

After several closed-door sessions with James and Klein, Dowling denied the request for a continuance and the request for an independent review. He also found no basis for James’ request of a new trial.




James then filed a motion requesting a new attorney, which was denied.

James, 35, of Grass Valley, was found guilty of first-degree murder and possession of marijuana for sale by a jury of eight men and four women. James is facing a sentence of 50 years to life.

Ferguson told the jury James shot Painter “execution-style, to rip off his marijuana.”

Painter, 53, had been reported missing April 7, and his body was found April 9 near Highway 20 and Harmony Ridge Road, east of Nevada City.

In the nearly two-week trial, Ferguson highlighted cellular telephone records and witness statements, including an alleged confession.

Defense attorney Klein tried to discredit witnesses and pointed to the lack of concrete evidence, essentially limiting his defense to James’ testimony.

James claimed another man, Gabriel Marsh, killed Painter, with the help of two drug cartel members; the jury did not believe James’ alternate version of the murder.

To contact Staff Writer Liz Kellar, e-mail lkellar@theunion.com or call (530) 477-4229.


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