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Jailhouse diary read in murder trial

Prosecutors open case with words from defendant's journal

By Chris OConnell
Court TV

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Jim Holden faces life in prison without parole if convicted on all counts.

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LAS VEGAS, Nevada (COURT TV) -- Prosecutors called Jim Holden a ruthless hit man who killed a man "execution style" during opening statements in Holden's murder trial. They then used his own words to emphasize their point.

After showing jurors gruesome crime scene photos of Michael Panek's bloody body face down on a floor, prosecutor Marc DiGiacomo read from Holden's jailhouse journal in which he details the shooting of Panek and his own life as an "enforcer" in Las Vegas.

"I was born to do this and was making so much money doing it. It payed [sic] to kill. Killing is easy when you just don't have any fealings no remorse, you just don't care, one after another," DiGiacomo read.

Holden, 25, is on trial for the murder of Panek, 19, and the shooting of Gary Sutton at a house in a gritty Las Vegas neighborhood. Prosecutors allege that Holden conspired with Rodney Evans and other residents in the house to make the shooting look like self-defense when Sutton and Panek entered the house uninvited during the early morning hours of February 6, 2004.

Panek died instantly from a single gunshot wound to the head, a medical examiner testified Tuesday.

Evans pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter earlier this year, and Holden is charged with first-degree murder, attempted murder, conspiracy to commit murder and kidnapping.

Police initially ruled that the shooting was done in self-defense, but reopened the investigation after hearing a suspicious 911 call and then discovering Holden's journal while he was in jail for another shooting.

DiGiacomo continued to read from a passage (rife with misspellings) about the killing on Whitecap Street.

"The one on Witecap did not pay much, though they were pore, but they think it was self defense evon after that punk Gary Sutton told the pigs that I sat them down and evon told them they were not leaving alive that little cop calling p----- I am going to kill him to."

Holden -- dressed in a three-piece, gray suit -- shook his head as DiGiacomo read from the diary.

During his opening statements, Brett Whipple, Holden's public defender, told jurors that his client's statements were hard to ignore.

"That is devastating testimony; I'll be the first to admit it," Whipple told jurors. But he said Holden was manipulated into fabricating stories in the journal by a hardened criminal named Steven Hall who convinced him he could win an acquittal by appearing to be insane.

"He befriended my client and set him up," Whipple said. "[Holden] wrote down some of the things that this person suggested and this person in turn provided it to his attorney and said, 'Get me a better deal.' And he did."

Whipple said that, despite the diary, jurors should trust the findings of the initial investigation.

"The police officers who chose not to arrest my client, Mr. Holden, were right because it was in self-defense."

Jurors also heard the 911 call that initially brought police to the house.

On the recording, Gary Sutton, who called 911 and left his phone on while Holden and Evans were allegedly threatening his life, is heard whispering for police to come.

Other, more menacing voices are heard in the background, including someone screaming, "You're gonna die!"

If convicted on all counts, Holden faces life in prison without parole. Whipple has indicated several times that Holden will testify on his own behalf.

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