State Justices Disbar Lawyer Who Killed Wife

Times Staff Writer

The state Supreme Court Thursday disbarred a San Diego lawyer who killed his wife by shooting her 10 times and ruled that the State Bar’s proposal to suspend the lawyer for 2 1/2 years was “inadequate.”

Lawyer Robert Lee Nevill was convicted of voluntary manslaughter and sentenced to eight years in prison for killing his wife of 13 years, Marcie, in their Tierrasanta home in November, 1981.

Nevill, who ran unsuccessfully for the San Diego school board in 1980, is scheduled to be released from prison next March, according to court documents.

Court Oversees Bar’s Discipline

The Supreme Court oversees the State Bar’s disciplinary system, which has come under severe attack in recent months, although the court rarely reverses a Bar recommendation on disciplining a lawyer.

But after recounting details of Nevill’s crime, the court said he “committed the ultimate offense: the taking of a life. Two-and-one-half years actual suspension simply fails to attest to that fact.”


On the day of the shooting, Nevill ingested cocaine, marijuana and alcohol, and then waited with a semi-automatic gun for his wife to return home. When she arrived, the two argued over the custody of their 16-month-old daughter and over each other’s infidelities. He shot her 10 or 11 times, the court said.

Clutching His Daughter

Nevill was clutching his daughter when police arrived. He admitted to shooting his wife, though he later claimed he was suffering from diminished capacity.

The court noted that Nevill “displayed a dangerous volatility which might well prejudice his ability to effectively represent his clients’ interest.”

The ruling overturned the Bar’s recommendation of a 2 1/2-year suspension, plus another 2 1/2 years of probation and requirements that Nevill pass a legal ethics examination and not abuse drugs.

The Bar recently began taking steps to make its discipline system tougher. It has come under fire by legislators, some lawyers and others for what some say is a lax system that allows lawyers to escape with light punishment for criminal convictions and violations of professional ethics.