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Craig Titus & Kelly Ryan Investigation » Blog Archive » Review Journal Reports: BODYBUILDERS FACING TRIAL: Ruling backs Ryan on lawyer choice

Review Journal Reports: BODYBUILDERS FACING TRIAL: Ruling backs Ryan on lawyer choice

From the Las Vegas Review Journal.

BODYBUILDERS FACING TRIAL: Ruling backs Ryan on lawyer choice

Move allowed if defendant voluntarily waives right to ‘conflict-free’ counsel
By ED VOGEL, REVIEW-JOURNAL

CARSON CITY — The Nevada Supreme Court ruled Thursday that former national fitness champion Kelly Ryan can select a lawyer of her choosing, even though her prospective attorney’s law firm also will defend her husband, bodybuilder Craig Titus.

Ryan and Titus are co-defendants in an upcoming trial in which they face charges of murdering their personal assistant, Melissa James, in December 2005. James’ body was found in Ryan’s burned car just off state Route 160 in Southern Nevada.

District Judge Jackie Glass postponed their trial, set to begin in April, so that Ryan could ask the Supreme Court if she could fire her current attorney, Greg Denue, and replace him with a lawyer whose law firm also represents her husband.

In the decision, justices said there is a strong presumption in law that nonindigent criminal defendants can choose their own lawyers if they voluntarily waive their right to a “conflict-free” counsel.

“When a defendant knowingly, intelligently and voluntarily waives the right to conflict-free representation, the district court must accept that waiver,” the court stated.

The justices also said if Ryan agrees to representation with the firm that represents her husband, she cannot later claim she was ineffectively represented.

The appeal to the Supreme Court was filed in the spring after Denue filed legal documents in which he said Ryan was a battered woman. He added that he planned to tell a jury that she was under the control of her husband when James was found dead.

Denue also asked that Ryan be tried separately from her husband. He added that Ryan was wavering on whether she wanted to fire him. Earlier, Ryan had fired another lawyer.

Denue claimed that Titus was trying to control his wife’s legal defense through his lawyer, Marc Saggese.

In court motions, Denue said Saggese wanted to have Ryan “sacrificed at the altar of Craig Titus.”

But Michael Cristalli, the lawyer who wants to represent Ryan, said Denue’s comments were untrue. He said Ryan did not want to blame her husband for James’ slaying. Cristalli and Saggese are law partners.

Chief Justice Bill Maupin entered a dissent in which he said “this attempt at joint representation has been mismanaged.”

If Ryan is convicted, Maupin said there still would be an issue about whether she had an effective lawyer because of the dual representation.

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