A presumed final motion hearing for a New York man accused of killing his wife by setting their house on fire was scheduled for Sept. 26 in the Calaveras County Superior Court on Tuesday. Jury selection is scheduled to begin on Oct. 3.
At least three defense motions have been pending before Judge Thomas A. Smith since Karl Karlsen’s original Feb. 14 trial date was vacated. One is a motion to not allow into evidence Karlsen’s 28 years-to-life sentence in Seneca County, New York, where Karlsen pleaded guilty to two counts of second-degree murder and committing insurance fraud to collect on an insurance policy he had submitted just days before the death of his son, Levi.
Karlsen admitted he knocked a truck off a lift and it fell on his son at their family farm in 2008.
Karlsen, 56, has said in court he wants to finally adjudicate the case against him. His wife, Christina Karlsen, died in a fire at their Murphys home in 1991, and Karlsen collected $200,000 in life insurance.
On Tuesday following the hearing, he whispered in the ear of his attorney, Scott Gross. Gross said something and added, “tomorrow.”
“I’ll be here all day,” Karlsen said.
“I know,” Gross responded.
Karlsen has been held in the Calaveras County Jail for more than two years on no bail.
At the beginning the hearing, Gross and District Attorney Barbara Yook held a private conference with Smith outside of the courtroom for 35 minutes.
When they returned, Smith said the meeting had to do with “scheduling” and to “resolve some of the issues” before a jury questionnaire was prepared.
Other pending motions by Gross include one to suppress an interview the Calaveras County Sheriff’s Office conducted in New York. In previous hearings, counsel has made reference to an alleged confession Karlsen made to a cell mate while in prison.
Smith previously determined that a statement Karlsen made to a cellmate would not be excluded as evidence and noted that the defense should hire an investigator to investigate the claims.
Gross said he may also file another motion related to Deputy District Attorney Jeff Stone and a visit he made to New York. While noting to Smith that he needed to file for reimbursements, Gross acknowledged that he had taken a trip to New York as well. During an April hearing, Gross indicated that the defense will pursue a trip to New York to gain information from a witness.
Gross also said a recusal motion he previously filed will be amended because of new information.
No reference was made on Tuesday to a mental competency evaluation of Karlsen on his ability to stand trial, which was the reason Gross cited for a continuance of the original trial date in February.
A court order dated March 6 said Dr. Albert Kastl would be appointed to conduct mental examinations with costs and expenses not to exceed $10,000.
Dr. Albert Kastl is identified online as a psychologist in Santa Rosa.
Another document regarding the appointment of an expert was labeled confidential.
The Sept. 26 motion hearing will begin at 8:30 a.m. in Department 3 of the Calaveras County Superior Court.
A trial confirmation conference is set for Oct. 2, and jury selection is scheduled to begin the next day.