Reno man appeals again in ex-wife's murder, judge shooting

RENO, Nev. — The former wealthy owner of a Reno pawn shop is again appealing his murder conviction for killing his ex-wife and trying to assassinate the judge who handled their divorce 12 years ago.

Darren Mack, who claimed he slashed Charla Mack's throat in self-defense when she attacked him in his garage, was the target of an international manhunt before the local district attorney helped persuade him to surrender in Mexico in 2006.

He wants the Nevada Supreme Court to reconsider comments from jurors expressing reasonable doubt about his guilt before Mack agreed to a sudden plea deal midway through a trial that sent him to prison for 36 years to 60 years.

The court rejected Mack's most recent appeal in January and struck from the court record a transcript of the jurors' interview with Dateline NBC following the trial. His new lawyer, William Routsis, says their remarks show they weren't convinced the murder was premeditated and wanted to hear Mack's side of the story.

Monday's filing seeks a rehearing of the appeal, which accuses his two high-profile defense lawyers, one who has represented numerous celebrities in Las Vegas and one now a judge in Reno, of coercing Mack into the plea bargain "to save their reputations."

David Chesnoff of Las Vegas and Washoe District Court Judge Scott Freeman testified during previous post-trial relief hearings they believed the best deal Mack could hope for was pleading guilty to first-degree murder and attempted murder in November 2007.

Routsis said in an email statement he intended to "expose one of the great injustices and indefensible corruptions occurring in the Nevada justice system."

He said Mack paid the lawyers $1.2 million but they "sold Mack down the river ... to save themselves a public flogging (for) inhumane and immoral conduct in violation of the rules of professional conduct."

The original case was moved to Las Vegas because of pretrial publicity during a 10-day manhunt for Mack. Authorities say he killed his wife and an hour later shot Judge Chuck Weller.

Mack, now 57, said he shot Weller but insisted he wasn't trying to kill him, only send "a message." He said his lawyers repeatedly misled him to believe the plea agreement would lead to his release on parole within 20 years. He lost his first appeal in 2010.

Chesnoff and Freeman did not immediately respond to requests for comment Tuesday.

Among other things, the Supreme Court ruled in January that Mack entered his pleas voluntarily and failed "to demonstrate a reasonable probability of a different outcome." It said the juror transcript wasn't admissible in court.

The jury corroborated "this is a case that simply does not support premeditation," Routsis wrote in earlier filings.

Even if it wasn't part of the formal proceeding, Routsis said Clark County District Judge Douglas Herndon was present and allowed the TV interview to be conducted in his courtroom shortly after the case was closed. He said the unusual circumstances warrant special leeway for a new hearing.

"A life in prison hangs in the balance," Routsis wrote.

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