YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections

Nesler May Be Freed Under Plea Bargain

Courts: Mother who was convicted of the courtroom slaying of the man charged with raping her son would waive right to new sanity trial.


SAN FRANCISCO — Ellie Nesler, who became a folk legend to some after gunning down a man accused of sodomizing her 7-year-old son, may soon be released from prison under a plea bargain agreement.

The California Supreme Court recently granted Nesler a new trial to determine whether she was sane when she shot and killed Daniel Driver during a 1993 courtroom hearing. He was charged with raping her son and molesting three other boys.

Under a tentative agreement between Atty. Gen. Dan Lungren's office and her lawyer, Nesler would waive her right to a new sanity trial, plead guilty to manslaughter, receive a sentence of seven years and become eligible for parole immediately, according to reports by two television stations and the Modesto Bee.

A trial judge in Tuolumne County must still approve the agreement, Marietta Adams, Nesler's sister, told the Bee. No hearing has been set.

Lungren's office refused to discuss reports of the plea bargain, first reported by Sacramento stations KCRA and KXTV.

"We don't talk until everything is finalized," said Matt Ross, a spokesman for Lungren.

Neither Nesler's lawyer nor her sister could be reached Wednesday.

A Tuolumne County jury found Nesler guilty of manslaughter for killing Driver, and, in a separate phase of the trial, decided she was sane at the time of the shooting.

Nesler was sentenced to 10 years in prison. If the jury had found her insane, she would have been committed to a mental hospital for as little as six months.

The California Supreme Court ruled Aug. 21 that a biased juror tainted the deliberations during the trial's sanity phase, making Nesler eligible for a new trial on her mental state only.

Nesler, 47, who is suffering from advanced breast cancer, was expected to be released on parole in January 1999. If a plea bargain is approved, she could be out of prison within weeks, her sister told the Bee.

The paperwork in Nesler's case may not yet have reached the trial court, however. A Supreme Court decision is final only after 30 days, and the state high court then transfers the case back to the lower courts that made the previous rulings.

Los Angeles Times Articles