Man accused of killing his pregnant girlfriend in Idaho seeks new representation
Erik Ohlson, the Jackson man accused of killing Jennifer Nalley and her unborn child near Driggs, Idaho, would rather represent himself in his capital trial than continue taking advice from his defense attorneys.
“Mr. Ohlson has indicated that he is unhappy with his counsel and wishes to represent himself or have counsel reappointed,” 7th Judicial District Judge Bruce Pickett said Friday during a motions hearing at the Teton County, Idaho, courthouse.
This is the second time Ohlson has tried to fire his attorneys. The court denied his first request for substitute counsel.
Pickett cleared the courtroom while the matter was discussed.
Ohlson’s attorneys, Jim Archibald and John Thomas, won’t say why their client no longer wants their assistance.
“He has some concerns,” Pickett said in the courtroom. “I am going to allow you to file a motion with the court to represent yourself pro se.”
People accused of a crime in the United States have a right to defense counsel and a public trial, under the Sixth Amendment.
They also have a right to represent themselves, but the court must find that Ohlson is competent and fully aware enough to do so.
Judge Pickett will be the one to make that decision.
Ohlson was told to file a motion with the court by Dec. 21. The court scheduled a Dec. 28 hearing to discuss the issue.
Ohlson has been held at the Madison County (Idaho) Jail since his July 2016 arrest.
The 41-year-old confessed to the Teton Valley, Idaho, shooting death of Nalley, his ex-girlfriend.
The court later ruled that Idaho State Police violated his Miranda rights when they continued to question Ohlson after he brought up needing an attorney. The confession was suppressed.
Ohlson’s attorneys are now arguing that it’s unconstitutional for the state of Idaho to charge their client with fetal homicide because the baby was still young enough to be legally aborted.
“The court will inquire that defense counsel serve this to the attorney general’s office, and we can hear that motion on the 28th as well,” Pickett said Friday.
Before ruling, Pickett wants to give the Idaho Attorney General’s Office a chance to weigh in on the motion because it argues the constitutionality of a statute.
Comparing murder to abortion in their motion, the attorneys said an amendment in Idaho law that doesn’t differentiate the age of an embryo is unconstitutional.
“A woman and her doctors can kill an embryo or fetus in the first trimester without repercussions from the law,” Archibald and Thomas wrote. “To say a potential mother has protection from being prosecuted but a potential father does not have protections violates equal protection under law.”
The state of Idaho has not replied to the motion to dismiss the fetal homicide charge.
Ohlson’s defense team said the baby didn’t die because it was shot. They said it died because its mother was shot.
“The suggestion that the state of Idaho is free to declare the same first-trimester fetus someone to be protected under the homicide law, but not someone to be protected under the abortion law, is nonsensical,” they wrote. “It’s legal insanity.”
Ohlson is set to go on trial July 3 in Bingham County, Idaho. He faces two counts of felony murder, as well as DUI and burglary charges. He is eligible for the death penalty.
Ohlson’s attorneys expressed concerns about preparing for trial since they’re on the chopping block.
The court reminded them that they have not yet been released from their representation duties.
Jennifer Nalley, 39, was a physicist and a member of the Jackson Hole Juggernauts roller derby team. Her grandmother, some friends and neighbors attend every hearing in Teton County (Idaho) District Court.