Vigilante mother cleared of murder: Child molester's killer still faces jail

A WOMAN who walked into a courtroom and pumped five bullets into the head of a man accused of molesting her young son has won an important legal victory after being found not guilty of first-degree murder.

A jury in Jamestown, California - a former Gold Rush town which formed the backdrop for the Gary Cooper movie High Noon - convicted Ellie Nesler of a lesser charge of voluntary manslaughter, leaving her facing a maximum prison term of 11 years.

She now faces a second phase in her trial, which will determine whether she was temporarily insane at the time of the killing. If the court decides in her favour, it could impose as light a sentence as six months in a mental institution.

When Ms Nesler, a 40-year-old single mother, slipped into the court and shot her son's alleged molester, using her sister's palm-sized, semi-automatic pistol, her crime triggered a surge of sympathy for her plight, both in northern California, and further afield.

Her victim, Daniel Driver, 35, who had a history of sex offences against children, was accused of sexually assaulting her six-year-old boy and three others at a Christian camp. According to her, Mr Driver had smirked at her when he was led into court for a preliminary hearing on 2 April. She also claimed that her little boy had been so terrified by Mr Driver, whom she said had threatened to kill him, that he spent the morning of the trial vomiting. Overwrought, she left the court and returned with the gun, shooting the handcuffed defendant in open court.

Several banks set up Ellie Nesler defence funds, local shops put out collection jars, two country and western songs were written about her, and Hollywood agents descended in droves. T-shirts and car bumper stickers were printed bearing the legend: 'Nice Shooting, Ellie', as her supporters sought to portray her as a Wild West vigilante, forced to take the law into her own hands in the face of a lenient judicial system and run-away crime.

Letters of support poured in from as far away as Italy, and Denmark, although her fans began to dwindle after it was revealed that she was under the influence of methamphetamines at the time of the shooting, .

When the verdict was returned, Ms Nesler, a California gold miner's daughter who is reputed to be intensely religious, emerged beaming. 'I am happy and very hopeful,' she told reporters.

The second phase of her trial begins on 7 September and is expected to last three weeks.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: 3rd Line Virtualisation, Windows & Server Engineer

£40000 - £47000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A 3rd Line Virtualisation / Sto...

Recruitment Genius: Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Service Engineer

£26000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A successful national service f...

Recruitment Genius: Business Development Executive / Sales - OTE £25,000

£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join ...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - Fixed Term Contract

£17500 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We currently require an experie...

Day In a Page

Syria civil war: Meet the military commander who says his soldiers will not rest until every inch of their war torn country is free of Islamist 'terrorists'

‘We won’t stop until Syria is back to normal’

Near the front lines with Islamist-controlled towns where Assad’s troops were besieged just last month, Robert Fisk meets a commander confidently preparing his soldiers for battle
The inside story of how Bill Clinton built a $2bn global foundation may undermine Hillary's chances

The inside story of how Bill Clinton built a $2bn global foundation...

... and how it may undermine Hillary's chances in 2016
12 best olive oils

Extra-virgin, cold-press, early-harvest, ultra-premium: 12 best olive oils

Choosing an olive oil is a surprising minefield. Save yourself the hassle with our handy guide
Sepp Blatter resignation: The beginning of Fifa's long road to reform?

Does Blatter's departure mean Fifa will automatically clean up its act?

Don't bet on it, says Tom Peck
Charles Kennedy: The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

Charles Kennedy was consistently a man of the centre-left, dedicated to social justice, but was also a champion of liberty and an opponent of the nanny-state, says Baroness Williams
Syria civil war: The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of this endless conflict

The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of Syria's endless civil war

Sahar Qanbar lost her mother and brother as civilians and government soldiers fought side by side after being surrounded by brutal Islamist fighters. Robert Fisk visited her
The future of songwriting: How streaming is changing everything we know about making music

The future of songwriting

How streaming is changing everything we know about making music
William Shemin and Henry Johnson: Jewish and black soldiers receive World War I Medal of Honor amid claims of discrimination

Recognition at long last

Jewish and black soldiers who fought in WWI finally receive medals after claims of discrimination
Beating obesity: The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters

Beating obesity

The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters
9 best women's festival waterproofs

Ready for rain: 9 best women's festival waterproofs

These are the macs to keep your denim dry and your hair frizz-free(ish)
Cycling World Hour Record: Nervous Sir Bradley Wiggins ready for pain as he prepares to go distance

Wiggins worried

Nervous Sir Bradley ready for pain as he prepares to attempt cycling's World Hour Record
Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Reds baulk at Christian Benteke £32.5m release clause
On your feet! Spending at least two hours a day standing reduces the risk of heart attacks, cancer and diabetes, according to new research

On your feet!

Spending half the day standing 'reduces risk of heart attacks and cancer'
With scores of surgeries closing, what hope is there for the David Cameron's promise of 5,000 more GPs and a 24/7 NHS?

The big NHS question

Why are there so few new GPs when so many want to study medicine?
Big knickers are back: Thongs ain't what they used to be

Thongs ain't what they used to be

Big knickers are back