Murder witness’ health a concern
An alleged eyewitness to last month’s fatal stabbing in Big Oak Valley has such severe diabetes he once faced having his legs amputated.
He also has congestive heart failure and, according to a court petition, was on a waiting list for a heart transplant.
Because of his reported frailty, the Nevada County District Attorney’s Office wants to get a recorded statement before his health gets worse. Conversely, the Public Defender’s Office claims records show the witness is improving under new medication.
Martin Daugherty, 47, resides at 12305 Hutto Road, where his caregiver, 41-year-old Julie Biswell, was stabbed to death Feb. 16. Biswell’s sometime boyfriend, Charles “Chuck” James Smith, was charged with murdering her.
Largely on technical grounds, a prosecution motion to examine Daugherty was rejected Friday by Judge John Darlington. But the issue is scheduled to be revisited Tuesday.
The prosecution’s motion is partly based on statements by Biswell’s mother, Jane Pusheck, to a district attorney investigator made in the days following the murder.
Pusheck, who has nursing training, said Daugherty suffered from heart failure, diabetes and liver problems. She said his condition became worse between Christmas – when she had Daugherty and Biswell over for dinner – and last week.
Daugherty hadn’t eaten in days, his ankles were swollen, and his hands and toes were blue, Pusheck reportedly told the investigator.
Eventually, Daugherty called Pusheck and said he couldn’t get out of bed. Two days later, she drove him to the veterans’ hospital in Reno.
Daugherty “is the only percipient witness to the murder and heard the defendant tell the victim the reason he was going to kill her just before the killing,” Assistant District Attorney Ron Wolfson said in his written motion.
Wolfson also argued Daugherty’s health could make him unavailable to testify at a trial or preliminary hearing.
In response, Deputy Public Defender Gary Gordon said a doctor who examined Daugherty declined to outline his long-term prognosis for the DA investigator.
Further, Gordon wrote, citing a DA document, “the witness’ condition … has improved to the point where the witness would be released from the hospital by early next week, because he is doing well on the new medication.”
In his ruling Friday, Judge Darlington denied Wolfson’s motion because it didn’t include requirements such as Daugherty’s address and status of Smith’s court proceedings, but he allowed the motion to be filed again.
Smith is being held at the Wayne Brown Correctional Facility without bail.
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