Schuller homicide trial set to start Tuesday in Nevada County Superior Court | TheUnion.com

Schuller homicide trial set to start Tuesday in Nevada County Superior Court

Murder suspect Jason Schuller's recent move to plead not guilty by reason of insanity means that his trial, set to start Tuesday in Nevada County Superior Court, will be split into two portions.

The jury will first decide whether or not he is guilty of the crime. If they do find Schuller guilty, the trial will proceed to its second phase, determining whether he was insane at the time of the March 2016 shooting death of William Tackett.

That verdict could send Schuller to a state psychiatric facility for the rest of his life.

Schuller is accused of shooting 67-year-old Tackett multiple times in the head and face, and setting Tackett's Banner View Drive home on fire before fleeing. He reportedly led police on a chase through three counties, ending early the next morning with his arrest in Sacramento.

On Wednesday, the defense team and the prosecution were in court to hammer out a number of issues relating to jury questionnaires and trial testimony.

The biggest stumbling block involves the question of whether testimony relating to Schuller's mental state would be allowed in the first phase of the trial.

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Judge Candace Heidelberger noted there is an overlap between arguing insanity and arguing mental capacity and intent, saying, "It's not a distinction that is easily made."

Assistant District Attorney Chris Walsh argued otherwise, telling Heidelberger that during the guilt phase, the defendant is deemed sane.

"That's the presumption," he said, prompting Heidelberger to respond, "It's not that simple."

"This will be the primary issue this court will be dealing with in this case," she said.

Other issues Heidelberger will consider include possible impeachment evidence regarding a first responder to the homicide, as well as testimony on Tackett's level of intoxication at the time of his murder.

Jury selection begins Tuesday, and Heidelberger indicated she wanted to have a jury selected by the end of the day Nov. 30. Opening statements in the trial likely would start Dec. 5.

To contact Staff Writer Liz Kellar, email lkellar@theunion.com or call 530-477-4236.