Court overturns conviction in 2005 child neglect case

Fri, Jan 15, 2010 (3:40 p.m.)

CARSON CITY – In a 2-1 decision, the Nevada Supreme Court has voided the second-degree murder conviction of Charlene Snyder in a highly publicized child neglect case in Las Vegas.

The court said trial lawyer David Schieck failed to request a psychiatric evaluation prior to advising her to plead guilty.

Snyder’s 2-year-old daughter, Adacelli, had cerebral palsy and weighed only 11 pounds at the time of her death in the summer of 2005. She was found dead inside the family’s mobile home in a room filled with animal and human feces and rotting food.

When Schieck discussed the plea agreement, the court said he was aware that Snyder “had a significant history of mental health problems, including a previous institutionalization, antidepressant prescriptions and recent suicide attempts.”

The court said the lawyer was aware “of the highly unusual behavior she exhibited in allowing her home to, in effect, become a cesspool.

“In light of trial counsel’s knowledge, he was unreasonable in failing to request a psychiatric evaluation prior to counseling appellant (Snyder) to plead guilty.”

Schieck had testified he did not order the evaluation because he believed Snyder was competent. The court said, “the standard for competency is not the same as that for insanity, nor is it relevant to appellant’s state of mind when her daughter died.”

The court said a psychiatric evaluation may have supported the only line of defense for Snyder of “insanity or that she lacked the requisite state of mind.”

The majority decision was signed Justices Michael Cherry and Michael Douglas. Dissenting was Justice Mark Gibbons, who said Snyder had not met her burden to show her lawyer was incompetent.

Snyder, now 32, will return to district court in Las Vegas for new proceedings.

Both Snyder and her boyfriend Jack Richardson, now 29, were sentenced to terms of 10 years to life on the second-degree murder conviction.

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