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Post Trial

Ted Binion's Silver Still in Court in Las Vegas
by Jerry Pippin

Las Vegas - 8:00 PM, May 17, 2005 - Details on how the legal system in Nevada deal with money and murder are still coming out with new filings in Court in connection with the Silver belonging to Ted Binion or did all of it? The Las Vegas Sun has a story that shows how cash strapped Rick Tabish and Sandy Murphy were when they were arrested and how even after all of the trials, but not all of the appeals, the 55 Billion Dollar Estate of Ted Binion is still quarreling over a few pieces of silver.
to read the detail.

The Retrial

2/2/05: The Binion Retrial is over, but the sentencing before Judge Boneventure on 3/11/05 is upcoming and pre-sentencing activities are causing much controversy. Listen to Cathy Scott's report on the ongoing Binion Case saga, "The Judge Boneventure Firestorm," from Las Vegas.

During the interview, Cathy Scott refers to this week's column in the Las Vegas City Life magazine, courtesy of

Las Vegas City Life
January 28, 2005
Crime & Punishment
By Cathy Scott

Trial attorney takes on Las Vegas again

Famed San Francisco criminal defense lawyer J. Tony Serra has signed on for three more Las Vegas cases. Serra recently defended Rick Tabish, who was acquitted in November in the death of casino heir Ted Binion.

At least one of the new cases is a murder rap, sources close to Serra's camp said. Serra is expected in court Jan. 28 at a preliminary hearing with a new defendant.

Meanwhile, Serra has withdrawn from his representation of Tabish in any future appeals and motions. Joe Caramagno, co-counsel during the Binion retrial, told a reporter that Serra "was the go-to guy at trial."

The "go-to guy"?

Lest Caramagno forget, Serra is ranked as one of the top 10 defense attorneys in the nation. He also won the 2003 Trial Lawyer of the Year Award, a prestigious honor from the Trial Lawyers for Public Justice.

One of his most famous cases involved a Native American who had been convicted and sentenced to die for killing a Northern California sheriff's deputy. Serra, with his 40-plus years of experience, got the man off of death row -- and not in a body bag -- and then got an acquittal at a retrial.

It's been whispered throughout the Las Vegas legal community that without Serra the outcome of the Binion trial could have turned out the opposite. With Serra onboard, however, Tabish and codefendant Sandy Murphy were each acquitted of murder (after earlier convictions the Nevada Supreme Court overturned).

The "go-to guy"? Serra appeared to be the coach, the captain and the star of the team.


11/23/04: Verdict rendered by the jury at high noon.
Sandy and Rick not guilty of murder and robbery.
Guilty of lesser counts of conspiracy to commit robbery, burglary and grand larceny.

Jerry on the scene in Las Vegas

11/26/04: Las Vegas - Cathy Scott, investigative reporter and true crime author, discusses the verdict in the Rick Tabish, Sandy Murphy re-trial for the murder of Ted Binion with Jerry Pippin in the interview posted below. Scott has written a book about the case called "Death in the Desert, The Ted Binion Homicide" and has covered this case from the beginning. to order the book autographed by Cathy.


11/23/04: Las Vegas - As predicted by the Jerry Pippin Show, the Jury returned a verdict prior to the Thanksgiving holiday. Sandy Murphy  (photo, left) and Rick Tabish felt their prayers were answered after hearing the jury's verdict of not guilty of the murder and robbery charges.

Sandy and Rick were found guilty of the lesser charges of conspiracy to commit robbery, burglary and grand larceny, which related to the attempts to obtain the assets of Binion, including a hoard of silver locked in a vault in Pahrump, Nevada, after his death. 

for the full story, including video reports.





11/22/04: Las Vegas - Jury in Binion case asks to review testimony by GLENN PUIT LAS VEGAS REVIEW-JOURNAL.

The jury in the Ted Binion murder trial deliberated all day Saturday without reaching a verdict for slaying suspects Sandy Murphy and Rick Tabish, but the jury did request information about fingerprint evidence in the case.

Court spokesman Michael Sommermeyer said jurors sent a note to District Judge Joseph Bonaventure asking to have the testimony of Las Vegas police latent fingerprint examiner Ed Guenther read back to them.

Deliberations continued today. The jury for the first trial took a week to reach a verdict. With Thanksgiving upcoming on Thursday, the current jury may come to a decision sooner.

for the full story.

11/19/04: Las Vegas - Closing arguments were completed and the jury began deliberation. It would appear that a verdict will be delivered prior to Thanksgiving. For coverage of the final day:

for the Las Vegas Review Journal coverage of closing arguments. The Defense theme was "Ted killed Ted" via a drug overdose. The prosecution contended, as in the previous trial, that Sandy and Rick had motive to kill Ted and there was circumstantial evidence to prove that they did. Whose expert witnesses will the jury believe beyond a reasonable doubt? This may be the deciding factor in the rendering of the verdict.


for an exclusive KVBC-TV interview with Sandy Murphy after the jury went into deliberation.

And, for video coverage of closing arguments from KVBC-TV.

Steve Crupi of KVBC-TV reports:

Tony Serra, makes a dramatic performance in court. It is a courtroom performance that will be talked about for years to come. But will it be enough to save Rick Tabish and Sandy Murphy from a murder conviction?

Just when you think this trial can't get any more dramatic, it does. Defense Attorney Tony Serra gave a closing argument of Shakespearean proportions. "What Caesar wants, Caesar gets. What the casinos want the casinos get!" Defense Attorney Tony Serra had the stage to himself this afternoon, using character voices and flamboyant gestures to make his argument that Rick Tabish and Sandy Murphy are being railroaded by the Binion money machine.


11/17/04: Las Vegas, 8:30 P.M.:
Jerry reports live from Vegas on the Binion Retrial.

Jerry discusses what happened in court today as the Defense Testimonies were completed. Tomorrow there will be no open court session, with the Judge and the attorneys spending the day negotiating on instructions to the jury. Friday, Prosecution and Defense closing arguments will be presented.

11/16/04: Las Vegas, 9:30 A.M., More of a Contrast Than the Mind Can Comprehend by Jerry Pippin

This morning sunshine on 3rd Street in front of the Clark County Courthouse cast tiny shadows; compared to last night’s pitch darkness being penetrated by the neon skyline of Casino Center and the roar of diesel engines powering the various TV trucks parked in loading zones on Bridger Street set the scene for the final movement of the symphony underway in the third floor courtroom with Judge Bonaventure. Soon, closing arguments by all attorneys will be underway – and the fate of Tabish and Murphy will lie in the hands of twelve citizens whose own lives are far different than those unfolded before them in court.

Yesterday it was testy, but revealing, as the cross-examination of Rick Tabish (photo, left, by Gary Thompson) unfolded. Prosecutor Robert Daskas moved through the two-hour question and answer session with vigor. He tried to trick Tabish up on the cell phone numbers, and the meeting at the restaurant on the day Binion’s body was found.

It is important to the prosecution to prove that Tabish, Murphy and their lawyer were not having a leisure late lunch. It seems that the cell phone numbers are not proof in this reporter’s mind that they were not at the restaurant – which is their alibi. Strangely, most of the cross was centered on Tabish lying to authorities about loading the Binion silver into a truck in Nye, County.

Tabish was asked about his testimony by a reporter after court, and he said, “I think I did alright. I told them the truth.” Truth and justice hangs in the balance here in the desert as this high profile trial grinds to a halt.

11/16/04: Las Vegas, 8:00 A.M., Week Five Trial Review

Jerry joins Cathy Scott in Las Vegas for an overview of week five of the trial and what might be in store in upcoming week. Will a verdict be reached by Thanksgiving?



11/15/04: Las Vegas, 8:30 A.M., Tabish Eyes Jury and Says, "I'm Not Guilty!" by Jerry Pippin

Anticipation is heavy in the air as today's court proceeding continues as the testimony of murder defendant, Rick Tabish, continues. His attorney, Tony Serra, on Friday, allowed Tabish to speak freely about his circumstances surrounding the removal of silver from the Binion vault and an electric moment when Serra asked Tabish to look the jury in the eyes and tell them whether or not he killed Binion. His disclaimer was spoken positively and loudly to the jury that he was innocent of murder.

Today, the Tabish family is expected to be in full support. In a snafu on Friday, they had gone back to Missoula, as they thought he would not testify until Monday. The Binion family was there with the exception of sister, Becky, who has been strangely quiet during the trial. His daughter, Bonnie, sat in the third row in complete attention as Tabish told the story about her dad telling him to move the silver if anything happened to him, because it should go to his daughter. Observers seemed to think she had heard this side of the story for the first time, gauging by her expressions. She talked to no one as she left the courthouse.

The prosecution has signaled they intend to aggressively attack Tabish on the stand today.


11/13/04: Las Vegas, Rick Tabish takes the stand early. His testimony was expected to begin on Monday, but instead his attorney called him to the stand on Friday. Tabish (photo, left) looked directly at jurors and, in a thick Montana accent, calmly denied killing millionaire Ted Binion.

"Absolutely and unequivocally not," Tabish said. "I did not kill Ted Binion."

Throughout his testimony, Tabish gave rambling answers to seemingly simple questions during nearly five hours of testimony.

for the full story from the Las Vegas Review Journal.

11/10/04: Las Vegas, The Binion Trial Report by Cathy Scott, Special to

A world-renowned dermatologist, Dr. Morris Westfried, testified Wednesday in the retrial of Sandy Murphy and Rick Tabish -- accused of killing casino mogul Ted Binion -- and shot down the prosecution's theory that Ted Binion died, in part, from Burking -- a process copied from an 1800s grave robber.

The doctor told jurors the two marks on Binion's chest could not have been left by button marks, as the prosecution has contended. Prosecutors allege that Murphy and Tabish forced Binion to ingest a lethal dose of heroin and Xanax, then sat on his chest and smothered him.

"You'd have to do a skin biopsy to determine what it is," Westfried told jurors. "The medical examiner in this case failed to do that."

Also -- and possibly the most damning conclusion -- Westfried said men's shirts typically run between 8 and 11 millimeters in diameter. The mark on Binion's chest was 15 millimeters.

"if this were trauma, that mark should be the size of a button," Westfried said. "It isn't."

In addition, the two marks on Binion's chest of 2 inches apart. Buttons, he said, are 3 1/2 inches apart.

Also on the stand Wednesday were Sandra and Ken Murphy (standing in photo, left), who each testified about their daughter's relationship with Binion.

Sandra Murphy told jurors she went to Binion's Palomino Lane home after learning Binion had given her daughter "a black eye and fat lip." She asked Murphy to go home with her that day, but said Murphy told her she "loved Ted" and it was her choice to stay with him.

Expected to take the stand on his own behalf Monday is defendant Tabish.

Scott, a freelance journalist and bestselling true crime author, has written a book about the case titled, Death in the Desert: The Ted Binion Homicide Case.

11/9/04: Las Vegas, 12 Midnight - MORE EXPERTS FOR THE DEFENSE by Casey Clare

On the heels of testimony on Friday that Ted Binion had enough drugs in his system to kill him; two more defense witnesses took the stand on Monday. Dr. Charles Wetli (photo, left), a medical examiner from New York. "Based on everything I've reviewed, the death would be accidental." He went on to say to say that it was homicide would be a good piece of fiction and not reality. Then Dr. Charles Wetli, a medical examiner from New York. Vincent DiMaio, a chief medical examiner in San Antonio, Texas, said prosecutors' contention that Binion was slain is simply incorrect.

Both men scoffed opening at the prosecution contention that marks on Binion's body were the result of the defendant Tabish and Murphy sitting on him and suffocating him. They stressed the only evidence is simple, too many drugs in the system, Valium, Xanax, and Heroin all combined to become a lethal dose. Observers indicated that jury was very attentive during the testimony of both men.

11/8/04: Jerry talks with reporter Cathy Scott, who is covering the Binion re-trial and is author of the book, "Death in the Desert- The Ted Binion Homicide." They discuss week four, which saw the prosecution end its case and the defense begin its case with its own set of experts on how Ted Binion died.

Listen to the interview with Cathy


11/5/04: Las Vegas, 3:30 p.m. - WHO'S CELL PHONE WAS IT...AND OTHER STRANGE FACTS by Jerry Pippin

There was lots of tension in the courtroom of the first day of the defense part of the trial. True, there was tension between the defense and the prosecution which seems to be getting louder with each objection and more personal. But the real tension came from the bench as Judge Joseph Bonaventure (photo, left) tried to look relaxed, but you could see the churning inside of him. Today the trial was not going his way.

As in many cases, his problem was not with content....but with time. You see, old Joe has had quite a family values week. First, Joe Jr., gets elected to the bench himself, and secondly, another son is beginning the ascension to a Bonaventure dynasty in Clark County. His second son, was due to be sworn into the Nevada Bar later that afternoon and the court proceedings were grinding on and on. Finally, a side bar was called. The jury was dismissed for ten minutes, and the judge told the lawyers they would have to be out of there by 1:30 p.m. It was too bad the jurors were going to have to miss lunch, but Joe was not going to miss the cocktail party and ceremonies for his son.

I'm not sure it impacted the testimony of the expert witness for the defense. After all, the prosecution will be limited to about 30 minutes of cross examination.

Forensic toxicologist, James C. Garriott, refused to move off from his statement, that Binion had lethal amounts of drugs in his system. He testified that Xanax and valium were not enough to kill Binion alone, even though the gaming figure probably had about 50 tablets of Xanax in his system, however; mixed with black tar heroin the combined results would cause death. Garriott is well known in Dallas and San Antonio for his work surrounding police investigations of drug overdoses.

William Knutsen was part of a battle by the prosecution to confuse the jury about cell phone calls. Knutsen, who acted as Sandy's attorney, but represented Tabish in a business deal, was at a restaurant with the two of them the afternoon of Binion's death. The defense was able to enter time/date stamps for the billing of the meal, that showed, clearly, that they were all there. In a strange, out of dimension argument, the prosecutor introduced cell phone calls from various cell phones and cell phone plans owned by the three. Records showed calls were made during the time of the phone records and the restaurant bill. That indicated that they were calling each other across from the table or someone was lying. This reminds me of the frequent Caller ID calls that I get from people who insist that I called them when I didn't. The explanation is simple: it is either a wrong number, which happens frequently, or I'm making these calls while in a deep trans and not realizing it. The explanation on the cell phone records for these three is much simpler, previous testimony and depositions, have indicated that Sandy and Rick used each other's cell phones and Knutsen testified that he may have loaned his cell phone to Murphy during lunch. This electronic shell game probably did not make many points with the jury.

Earlier this week I talked to reporter, Cathy Scott, about last week's testimony and how main characters in this tragedy, such as the Binion daughter, and the Binion Estate lawyer testified.

Listen to the interview with Cathy

11/5/04: Las Vegas, 8:00 a.m. - Battle of the Mayors by Jerry Pippin

It came quickly, the end of the prosecution's case. This morning the defense plunges into the fray with their version of the facts. One thing is clear, there will continue to be some very interesting witnesses on the stand. Remember when the prosecution brought to the stand, former mayor Jan Jones. Well, this morning the present mayor, Oscar Goodman will take the stand for the defense.

Goodman who is a former defense attorney of some note, worked as Murphy's attorney in 1998 and 1999. Tony Serra, defense attorney for Tabish wants to get into the record and let the jury hear a statement from a dead man, Donald Johnson. Johnson says Murphy was not at the home at the time of death on September 17th. He was there and did not see her or her car. The problem for the defense is that this man did not testify in the earlier trial and the prosecution is crying foul because there will be no opportunity to cross examine him.

Interestingly enough, the prosecution case ended with a whimper in my opinion. The final witness was Robert Leonard who testified about cell phone calls between Murphy and Tabish. He had to admit these were billing records and there was no way to verify who was using the cell phones and as an aside, this reporter thought they really proved very little anyway in the question of conspiracy which is being pushed by the prosecutors in this case.

11/04/04: Las Vegas, 9:00 a.m. - Former Friends can be a pain by Jerry Pippin

Testimony this week in the Binion Murder Re-trial seems to be focusing on former business and life partners of Rick Tabish. The prosecution plans to use them for effective emotional displays in front of the jury, I am sure, plus get them to testify in an unflattering way against Tabish and Murphy. Yesterday, a former business associate of Rick Tabish testified Wednesday that Tabish once solicited him to pay for alibi witnesses in his murder case and indicated he also was willing to pay for testimony discrediting a Las Vegas investigator.

Jason Frazier of Missoula, Montana did undergo questioning from the defense that revealed that some of things he testified to under direct examination were not true. One of the things that came up was his testimony that he wrote a check to a person for $2,000.00 for information on Binion investigator, Dillard. Defense Attorney Tony Serra pointed out there was no record of this check ever clearing the bank. Serra also pointed out that is nothing wrong with a defendant seeking alibi witnesses.

11/3/04: Las Vegas - 8:00 a.m., Wednesday - Be Careful What you Say to Your Bail Bondsman by Jerry Pippin

It was a strange morning yesterday in Las Vegas. It was election morning and Vegas was divided, not just ho hum divided but involved and angry divided. It is fast becoming apparent to this reporter that this court room is divided as well. It was nothing I could put my finger on exactly, but you knew things were fractured by the way the prosecutor hid evidence and sand bagged the defense on the issue of this mornings testimony.

I have thought about it for hours now; how many people say things in front of their bail bondsmen? Things out of bravado, fear, emotional times for sure when an associate or loved one is arrested. Now it looks like this may become a new "trick of the trade." Jail house snitches, bail bondmen, arresting officers reporting gossip and comments out of context.

There seems to be more to this testimony than meets the eye to this observer. Dario Costantino, used to own A Best Bail Bonds, and in court said after Tabish, Mattsen and Milot were arrested digging up the silver, Murphy showed up at his office on Sept. 20, 1998, with her attorney to secure bail for Tabish and Milot. Then the three showed up again to get the ranch foreman, Mattsen, out of jail. The witness said he heard someone say we need to get him out of there before he talks.

This could be a sign of wrong doing and a conspiracy as the prosecutor alleges or it could be the talk of people who have been under going serious questioning by authorities and know how deals can be made and how those in custody soon come to the conclusion they will do almost anything to get out on the street and out of the cage known as jail.

A full day of testimony coming up today and sometime, either today or this week, Tabish's ex-wife is going to twist the knife on her former husband. They do not have a good relationship now and a huge custody battle is going on for the children.

The air will continue to be electric and the emotions running high in this court room as the prosecution nears the end of its case.

11/2/04: Las Vegas, 9:00 a.m. - The election is even taking its toll on the Binion Murder re-trial. Judge Bonaventure has ruled only a morning of testimony will take place today so everyone can vote and this reporter is sure the Judge will be voting after all, his son is on the ballot for Justice of the Peace. Another Bonaventure son will be admitted to the Nevada Bar on Friday afternoon in a ceremony, so court will last only a half day that day too.

In Monday's session, Nye County Detective Sgt. Ed Howard testified that Rick Tabish lied to him about digging up the silver at the vault two days after Binion's death. Another witness was making an encore at the trial. The prosecution called Binion attorney Richard Wright back to the stand and his testimony was a mixed bag, some good for the prosecution and some good for the defense. Wright testified that Private Detective Tom Dillard (photo, left) was hired to investigate Tabish and Murphy the day after the Binion Funeral. Wright confirmed that the fees paid Dillard has totaled over $400,000 dollars.

10/29/04: Las Vegas Review Journal reporter, Glen Putt, reports on possible jury tampering incident in jury room on Thursday. Defense attorneys did not ask for a mistrial, but said it might become an issue on appeal. Here is the STORY.

Las Vegas - 8:00 p.m., Thursday, October 28, 2004 - WHITE HOT Day in Vegas Court Room by Jerry Pippin

Tomorrow is a state holiday in Nevada and there will be no court session for the re-trial of Tabish and Murphy. The day off seemed to come just in time as emotions were high in the court room all day. First there was the fight for admission of evidence.

The defense wanted to introduce a will from 1995 that would have given Murphy more money if Binion had died then than she would have received in 1998 when Binion died, if she had not been convicted of murder. The Judge got mad, the defense attorneys were persistent, but the evidence never got to the jury.

Then there was obvious dislike between Murphy and both James Brown the attorney and executor for the Binion Estate and between Murphy and Binion daughter Bonnie Binion. Then, there was the money.

Money seemed to be at the root of all testimony and actions in this case. Brown testified he received a half million to handle the Binion estate, he testified Ted Binion had loaned him almost a quarter of a million dollars; yet, he expected Ted to pay him three hundred dollars for an exercise machine he gave to Sandy to use. The estate handed out reward money, sold the house for a two hundred thousand dollar loss, gave away or sold cheaply all of the contents of the house including things belonging to Murphy.

Finally, there was the fee for Private Detective Tom Dillard. Brown said the fee was two hundred thousand or so, the defense showed it was well over three hundred thousand. More than the estate would have had to pay Sandy Murphy in cash, but of course, she would have been entitled to the house if she had not been convicted of murder.

Ah, the air was thick. The plot was thicker and the vacation day came just in time.

10/28/04, Report from Cathy Scott: Theory in Binion case revealed. It's always been a quandary how Clark County prosecutors came up with their theory in the Ted Binion case, that the 55-year-old Binion - a drug addict since the 1980s - had been forced to swallow a combination of tar heroin and Xanax he had purchased himself. Seems like a See this article by Cathy for details.

Las Vegas - 9:00 a.m., Wednesday, October 27, 2004 - The Clark County Court house in downtown Las Vegas has had many characters come through its doors over the years; but, none more interesting than those taking part in the Ted Binion Murder Re-Trial of Sandy Murphy and Rick Tabish. For starters there is the Judge, who looks and talks like a Mafia member out of Central Casting, and then there is defense attorney Tony Serra, who sometimes reminds me of the grandfather in the TV show "The Munsters." (see photos in gallery above)

All day Tuesday, Dr. Michael Baden (photo, below left) testified, a modern day Quincy to many. Trouble was his testimony was in direct conflict with the Clark County "Quincy" Dr. Larry Simms (photo, left). The Simms autopsy on Binion concluded Binion died of a homicide, but he ruled the cause of death was the ingestion of heroin and the prescription drug Xanax. Dr. Baden says no, Binion was smothered to death by a technique used two hundred years ago called "Burking."

Serra pointed out in cross examination that Baden had made about fifteen thousand dollars from the estate of Ted Binion to find a method of murder, and Baden said he thought he was going to bill Clark County for a similar amount for testimony in this trial.

The theme continues, unusual unique strange characters and lots of money being paid to witnesses as the re-trial grinds forward.


Las Vegas - 8:00 a.m., Tuesday, October 26, 2004 - ANTICIPATION HANGS OVER COURT ROOM by Jerry Pippin

Monday evening ended with a blockbuster statement for the Prosecution by Dr. Michael Baden (photo, left) said during the murder re-trial of Sandy Murphy and Rick Tabish. This morning, everyone was talking about what might take place today and how the defense would handle the assertion by Baden that the death of Ted Binion was a homicide. It was the stuff movies were made of, no doubt. The Judge gaveled the Monday session to a close after the statement by Baden, saying that the Jury had had enough for one day. It was late in the afternoon, and just when the testimony seemed to be routine, the scene changed with Baden on the stand.

Earlier, the Clark County Medical Examiner testified he believed it was a homicide as well. However, Tony Serra, defense attorney for Tabish did get him to admit some of his testimony on Monday was different from previous testimony casting doubt on some of his conclusions about marks on the body.

Special Audio Report, 10-25-04: The Binion murder re-trial is now entering it's third week. In this interview, Jerry discusses with reporter, Cathy Scott, week number two and her impressions of it. Scott has covered the Las Vegas judicial system for some time, and has some very interesting and unique observations.


Las Vegas - 11:00 a.m., 10-23-04 - SECOND WEEK OF TESTIMONY IS SURREAL by Jerry Pippin

Week two of the re-trial in the Binion murder case leaves one with strange images. Images of a group of people who thought nothing of spending money, a hundred dollar tip for a glass of wine, thousands of dollars laying around the house and testimony from Binion's drug dealer, Peter Sheridan.

Sheridan (photo, left) testified that he had delivered 12 bags of "black tar heroin" to Binion the day before Binion died. Instead of being treated as the scum bag he is; the prosecutor treated him as an expert witness. A man who said an experienced drug user like Ted would never overdose, but a regular heroin user might. Then came the parade of witnesses, including the man who cut the lawn, who received a five thousand dollar check from the Binion Estate in return for his testimony and the maid, who received ten thousand dollars, but told the court she thought she deserved twenty thousand.

Then there was the testimony of the Real Estate Lady. Evidently Binion wanted to buy some land and build a topless bar. This seems unnatural to me; a man with over 30 million dollars of net worth wanting to own a topless bar while he has an alcohol and drug problem with a topless dancer (she says she danced only once) living with him. She was a prosecution witness, but she seemed to back up the defense notion that Binion was in danger of killing himself with drugs. She quoted Sandy as saying he would not be a meeting later in the week because he was "messed up."

Special Audio Report, 10-21-04: Ted Binion Trial Reporter Cathy Scott talks to Jerry Pippin about her impressions of the Judge the jury and the lawyers. Scott has been a regular visitor to the court room during the trial, and tells Jerry some interesting tidbits and background concerning the jury, the judge, the lawyers and the witnesses.

Las Vegas - 8 p.m., 10-21-04: STORMING ON THE OUTSIDE, TURMOIL ON THE INSIDE By Jerry Pippin

Ten inches of rain, some hail and even snow invaded the Vegas today, but meanwhile downtown in district court the play continued. As the prosecution continued to paint a warm and fuzzy picture on a cold October day, the defense kept dashing the courtroom with a cool dose of reality.

Key Fescherk, Ted Binion's nephew was one of four witnesses called by the prosecution in an effort to show that the day before Binion's death, he seemed to be happy and content. The nephew testified that he was told by his uncle that he was ending his relationship with Sandy Murphy, his live-in girlfriend.

Other witnesses today, included a former Las Vegas Mayor, Jan Jones, who testified that Binion gave her a $40,000 check for her failed race for Governor. His housekeeper testified that Murphy told her not to come to work that day.

To back up their contention that Tabish and Murphy killed Binion with an overdose of Xanax and heroin, Dr. Enrique Lacayo, Binion's neighbor, testified that he gave Binion the prescription for 120 Xanax pills the day before Binion died.

The highlight of yesterday's testimony of a woman who reminded me in many ways of my ex-wife. Deanna Perry (photo left), is good looking, speaks well, but has a stubborn or mean streak; I am not sure which. It may be that she has a love/hate relationship with Tabish attorney, Joe Caramango. On cross examination, Perry did admit that her father was serving two life sentences without parole, and Caramango pointed out rule 35 in the Federal Prison Manual, that in some instances, prosecutors can obtain sentence reductions for prisoners. His effort to impeach her was combined with the fact that Perry was paid $20,000 by the Binion estate as part of the reward money in return for her testimony and conviction of Tabish and Murphy. She acknowledged that the fine print on the back of the check for the reward money indicated that she would have to return the money to the estate if she changed her story.

It was not so surprising to this reporter that the district attorney, David Roger, played hard ball with Perry, by telling her that if she wanted the reward money, she would have to testify. What was surprising was that Murphy told Perry so much of her personal business, including details of Binion's relationship with her, and his drug habits, at their first meeting in a beauty shop where Perry did nails. Basically, the message of yesterday's testimony to me is don't let your wife or girlfriend go to the beauty shop alone if you haven't been a nice guy. I asked several women about this today, and none were surprised that such secrets were revealed at the first meeting in a beauty shop.

Photo: Gary Thompson, Las Vegas Review Journal

Las Vegas - 7:00 p.m., 10-19-04, For Prosecution STAR WITNESS tries to flip, by Jerry Pippin
Kurt Gratzer, a former employee and friend of Rick Tabish, was a key witness in the original murder trial, but this morning he was telling it like the defense wanted to hear it. He said his testimony was a joke, his tales told around Montana were a joke and he was telling the opposite story this morning in Court. He was not a friendly witness for the prosecution, even though they called him to the stand. In fact, he was granted the status of a "hostile witness" by the Judge.

"I didn't want to testify for the prosecution, and I don't want to testify for the defense either," Gratzer said during one of his many rambling answers. "If I had an opportunity to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, I'd be happy to be here." He also testified he was told that Binion was afraid his family instead of Tabish or Murphy would get the bulk of his $7 million dollars worth of silver and rare coins. "I am not allowed to tell the truth here, apparently." Gratzer charged that "the government had an ability to control" him.

Tim Boileau, the Montana lawman who was the result of a motion for mistrial yesterday appeared before the Jury for the first time today. He seemed like a witness more passive as defense attorney Tony Serra got him to admit the paper in Missoula came out the 22 of Sept, and Boulieau admitted his conversation with Gratzer was three days earlier. That would make the conversation about Binion on the 19th after he died. Serra also brought out that Gratzer had been reading about the case on the internet. This seems to indicate that Gratzer did not tell Boileau about the plan to kill Binion before he died.

The jury heard for the first time that Metro Las Vegas Detectives had promised help in getting him a job with the indication that it helped shade the testimony for the prosecution. The Montana man did not deny these facts and seemed very sincere on the stand.

Observers note that this goes to the heart of the defense proposition that witnesses were paid, enticed or seduced into testifying for the prosecution in the first trial.

Las Vegas - 7:00 p.m., 10-18-04, Another attempt at a mistrial and more character defamation by the prosecutor, by Jerry Pippin
Last week it was Ted Binion's ex-wife (KVBC-TV photo left), and this morning, starting off a new week in trial of Murphy and Tabish it was Doris Binion's divorce attorney. Josh Landish, who testified. In this testimony, once again the opulent life style of Binion was reenforced with the story that Sandy Murphy was given a ten thousand dollar credit limit credit card which was paid each month by the Casino Magnet Millionaire.

In testimony slated for tomorrow, a hearing was held late this afternoon with a witness against Tabish, Tim Boileau, a corroborating witness for Kurt Gratzer, who wanted to work for Las Vegas Metro, and who was told by detectives taking his statement that they would help him land the $50,000 a year job. This would double his Montana police salary. The defense teams asked for a mistrial ruling, but the Judge said it did not quite meet the high level needed for that type of ruling. However, the defense was given a free hand to go into this area of testimony on Tuesday.

Tuesday is a big day and Kurt Gratzner will be a prosecution witness. He has been the object of charges and counter charges of witness tampering. He reportedly received reward money from the prosecution for his testimony and a legal fees were supposed to have been paid to him by backers of the defendants. These questions among others will certainly be addressed in Court on Tuesday.

A highlight today for the defense came when Anna Ling cross examined a prosecution witness, Christopher Hendricks, bringing out that his testimony about being at a fashion show had been misleading. The defense brought out he had five drinks in two hours, that Murphy was not alone at the show, that he called Becky Behnen, Richard Wright and Tom Dillard about the reward money. He also lost his job and called Dillard to get him a new job. Then he called Dillard about outstanding warrants and private detective got him a lawyer to represent him.

Las Vegas - 5:30 p.m., 10-14-04, It is the re-trial of the century? Prosecutor Christopher Lalli opened up the case before the jury this morning with his opening arguments. Here are the first 20 minutes of the opening statement by the prosecution. Then it was Tony Serra's turn. Serra is a well known defense attorney from San Francisco, and held the court in awe as he spoke at length about his client, Rick Tabish. Finally, Michael Cristalli, Sandy Murphy's attorney says this case isn't about murder but about a heroin addict who overdosed.
for the video coverage from KLAS-TV.

Las Vegas - 11:00 a.m., 10-14-04, MISTRIAL asked by Tabish Attorney- by Jerry Pippin
Cathy Scott, who is at the trial, reports that Tony Serra, lead attorney for Rick Tabish has moved for a miss trial because during an in camera session, the prosecutors were given everything they wanted. The Judge was accused of being pro-prosecution in the first trial, and it appears that this will be the case again in this trial.

Las Vegas - 10:00 a.m., 10-14-04: Trial Highlights - Opening Arguments by Jerry Pippin
Opening arguments started this morning in the re-trial of Sandy Murphy and Rick Tabish, who are charged with the murder of Ted Binion. This web site plans to do as much live coverage as technically possible. Web demons have been at it this morning, making the live cast impossible to do. We are not giving up on doing this however.

The good news is that Caroline Bleakley of KLAS-TV's web site is editing the opening statements into two 30 minute pieces that will be on the web later today. As soon as this is available, we will link to it and you can see it here. We plan extensive wrap up coverage of the trial proceedings as well, with shows being posted overnight in time for review by everyone who misses live trial coverage.

KLAS-TV has stretched to the limit their resources today because it is a very big day in Las Vegas with live local TV broadcasts of both Presidential Candidates who are there making speeches. We plan to offer updates in text about the trial from time to time this afternoon and evening as well.

Las Vegas - 8:30 p.m., 10-12-04: NO OPENING STATEMENTS ON WEDNESDAY AFTER ALL - by Jerry Pippin
The lawyers were half right, they said they could seat a jury in the re-trial of Tabish and Murphy. They were able to choose 12 jurors in two days, but now they have to go to alternates and that means at the close of business today at the Clark County Court House, still no opening arguments scheduled. It will probably happen on Thursday now and Sandy's legal team still is not saying whether or not she will testify on the stand. Tabish definitely is going to testify on his own behalf according to statements made in court by his lawyer to prospective jurors on Monday afternoon. Reports still persist that the Feds have a mystery witness who will show up in court for the defense as well. Details from KLAS-TV. The George Knapp report on a mystery witness can be found here.

Las Vegas, 10-12-04, Las Vegas Review Journal: Defense - As jury selection continues, prospective jurors told Tabish will testify. Attorneys for slaying suspect promise 'far more thorough' defense strategy in retrial.

Las Vegas, 8:10 p.m., 10-11-04: Jury Selection begins for Sandy and Rick - by Jerry Pippin
It might seem strange to a news hound like me; but many of the Jurors today questioned by lawyers as they begin the important task of finding a jury did not realize that the trial was a re-take of the first murder conviction. More than one told lawyers they were not aware that the trial had been set aside and seemed puzzled that it was going to happen again. Ask any trial expert and this part of the trial is sometimes the most important part, the making or breaking of a case in seating the right jury. KLAS-TV filed this report about today's proceeding.

Pre-Trial Information and Commentary

If you have plenty of time for reading, for the pre-trial case ruling document from the court. This will give you some idea of what to expect during the trial in terms of evidence to be presented and witnesses.

The final hearing before the beginning of the trial and jury selection has been held. Many motions were filed by defense and prosecution with rulings observed by court watchers as mixed blessings for both the defense and prosecution. Gavel to Gavel coverage will begin with opening arguments, expected on Thursday, October 14th from the news channel operated in Las Vegas by KLAS-TV. We plan extensive coverage with radio programming each day, video and the inside story from Cathy Scott, well known crime author and reporter. Here is the latest story from KLAS-TV.

Cathy Scott is covering the Binion Retrial, and Jerry talks to her about the last hearing before the jury selection, which begins on October 11, 2004 in Las Vegas. In this 10/10/04 interview, Scott tells Jerry about many unknown details that will come to the public in the second trial.



10/11/04 - Will this be an unbiased legal analyst?

April 16, 2004 Vegas Beat -- Timothy McDarrah:

Joe Bonaventure Jr. was campaigning among the canapés at the Epicurean Affair at Caesars Palace on Thursday night. Joe Jr., the son of the judge who presided over the Ted Binion murder case, is running for justice of the peace. By Joe Jr.'s side as he patrolled the poolside party was his father's former law clerk, Al Lasso. Joe Jr. got some face time with local personalities such as Kevin Stessi (Wynn Resorts), David Alenik (Pasta Shop), Brad Brennen (Commander's Palace) Gary Canter (Canter's Deli at Treasure Island), Hubert Keller (the new Fleur de Lys at Mandalay Place), VEGAS magazine prez Michael Carr, novelties mogul Michael Levine, Art Institute prez Steven Brooks and, of course, Robin Leach. Source.

News: NORM: Monday, October 11, 2004 Las Vegas Review-Journal

KTNV-TV has added Las Vegas attorney Al Lasso, former law clerk of Judge Joseph Bonaventure during the first Ted Binion murder trial, as legal analyst in the retrial of Sandy Murphy of Rick Tabish, which starts today in Bonaventure's court. Murphy's lead attorney, Michael Cristalli, was Bonaventure's law clerk in the late 1990s. Source.

Oct. 11, 2004
by Steve Miller

Nevada Judicial Discipline Commission may be in violation of NRS Judge and taxpayers deserve to know outcome of expensive investigation

Its public knowledge that at least two complaints were filed against Clark County District Court Judge Joseph Bonaventure in 2002 for his promotion of a one sided book about the Binion case. Following the filing of the complaints, the complainants were informed by the Nevada Judicial Commission that the Commission wanted to wait until the Nevada Supreme Court ruled on the appeal of the case. On July 15, 2003, the high court reversed the convictions of Sandy Murphy and Rick Tabish.

Since that time the Commission has met on five separate occasions, the last being September 23, 2004. During the 18 months since the reversal, this Commission has had adequate time to fully investigate the complaints filed against this Judge. Last summer, the Commission -- at taxpayer's expense -- hired The Advantage Group, a private investigation firm located in Las Vegas and in Reno. Investigator Dennis Arnoldy then proceeded to interview everyone involved. The public is not entitled to know how much The Advantage Group was paid.

The jury selection starts today, and the Commission still remains silent and has taken no action either to dismiss or schedule a formal hearing on these complaints.

According to the following NRS, the Commission has the responsibility to act in a timely manner to either determine there is lack of probable cause to proceed and dismiss the complaint, or if the Commission finds existence of probable cause, A.R.J.D. 16 requires that a formal statement of charges must be prepared and filed as a public document. The Commission has done neither, and it has yet to be determined whether this judge is too biased to be sitting on this case.

NEVADA REVISED STATUTES: CHAPTER 1 COMMISSION ON JUDICIAL DISCIPLINE General Provisions In absence of dismissal of complaint against judge, commission must determine whether or not probable cause exists; effect of determination. Pursuant to Nev. Art. 6, § 21, commission on judicial discipline, after preliminary investigation of complaint against judge, shall either dismiss matter or order hearing. In support of constitutional mandate, supreme court adopted A.R.J.D. 15 which, in absence of dismissal, requires commission to make finding whether or not probable cause exists. Therefore, if commission determines either that basis for finding of probable cause does not exist or, after hearing to determine probable cause (see A.R.J.D. 14), that there is lack of probable cause to proceed, commission must dismiss complaint, thereby preserving confidentiality of proceedings and reputation of judge. On other hand, if commission finds existence of probable cause, A.R.J.D. 16 requires that formal statement of charges must be prepared and filed as public document. (See NRS 1.425 et seq.) Whitehead v. Commission on Judicial Discipline, 111 Nev. 70, 893 P.2d 866 (1995) NRS 1.425 "Commission" defined. As used in NRS 1.425 to 1.465, inclusive, "commission" means the commission on judicial discipline.

10/10/04 - RETRIAL BEGINS MONDAY: 'Old cowboy' has nothing to say. Prosecutors want Ted Binion's longtime friend to tell what he knows about slaying, suspects.

10/8/04 - Witness in Binion slaying trial faces Montana charges. Recent arraignment includes accusations of domestic violence, probation violations. Kurt Gratzer was granted immunity for his testimony in the first Ted Binion slaying trial of Rick Tabish and Sandy Murphy. Gratzer, a key witness in the Ted Binion murder trial, is facing new felony charges in Montana, according to attorneys' comments in court Thursday. 

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The re-trial of Rick Tabish and Sandy Murphy in the murder of Ted Binion is scheduled to begin on October 11th in Las Vegas.

In an exclusive interview, Jerry talks with author Cathy Scott, who has written a book about the death of Binion and the prosecution case against Tabish and Murphy. This interview covers the background of the case, revealing facts not known by the public and up to date legal actions surrounding the case. For further information, we invite you to check out Cathy's web site,, and her blog site:


Listen to the interview.

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Here Come the Judge
Background Information

Judge Joseph Bonaventure, the trial judge, is a controversial Judge and most court observers are amazed he intends to be on the bench hearing the second murder trial. Sketch courtesy of

Recently, the Las Vegas Review Journal newspaper released their annual rate the Judge report. Over 200 attorneys were questioned by the newspaper and asked to rate the Judges. Bonaventure received as many votes that this Judge did not properly apply the law as those that thought he did. Only about a third thought he was adequate when it came to preparing for the cases and ruling in his court. Almost twice as many thought he displayed favorable behavior to certain clients and lawyers as thought he was fair.

Forty-nine percent of the lawyers thought Bonaventure was rude in the Court Room. Bonaventure was not rated the lowest, Judge Jesse Walsh received only a 15% positive vote from lawyers when it came to the question of ability and civility in the Court Room. It is noted that there were 21 District Judges in Clark County rated and only four or five were rated below Bonaventure in ability and fairness. For complete ratings, go here:

After the first trial, complaints were filed against Judge Bonaventure with the Nevada Commission of Judicial Discipline. These people filed these complaints in 2002 and have been receiving quarterly letters since that time stating there was an active ongoing investigation. The last meeting of the Commission was on September 23rd, and the people who filed these complaints still haven't received any letters regarding the progress of the investigation or the outcome of the last meeting. One week before the new trial this issue is still pending.

Judge, Prosecutors Reveal Prejudices, Las Vegas Tribune, by Steve Miller, November 7, 2001 

Bad Judgment, INSIDE VEGAS, by Steve Miller,, February 24, 2003 

Vegas Judge should be sanctioned, INSIDE VEGAS, by Steve Miller,, June 16, 2003 

Vegas judge should recuse from Binion retrial Judge autographed books alleging "dalliances" between litigants scheduled for re-trial in his court, INSIDE VEGAS, by Steve Miller,, December 8, 2003 

Like Father, Like Son, INSIDE VEGAS, by Steve Miller,, September 27, 2004 

Complaints have been kept secret, Las Vegas SUN, September 27, 2004 

Binion Judge could face complaint LVRJ September 23, 2004

Complaint against judge to be addressed , Las Vegas SUN, September 22, 2004 

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