Friday, August 4, 2006

Schierman Plea, Motions

Conner Schierman pleaded not guilty to aggravated first-degree murder (four counts) and arson for the incident in which four family members were stabbed to death and their house burned. Natalie Singer, Man pleads not guilty in deaths of four members of Kirkland family, Seattle Times, Aug. 1, 2006.

Schierman's defense attorney, James Conroy, moved to dismiss the charges, alleging prosecutorial misconduct when the Kirkland Police Department released about 300 pages of the case file to KING-TV. Conroy wrote that releasing the documents was

concerted and protracted effort by the news media, with the obvious and purposeful assistance of the state of Washington and the Kirkland Police Department, to try the case and convict Conner Schierman in the press before he was ever able to enter his initial plea.
The Times reported:
In his response, Senior Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Scott O'Toole said that KING-TV, which obtained the documents through a public-information request, removed from its Web site the story and related photographs that referred to the documents and agreed not to run any more stories based on the material in the discovery.

He also said much of the information mentioned in the media was properly released in public documents days before KING-TV obtained the discovery evidence.
I went to KING's website, looking for some statement about removing the documents. Instead I found what appears to be the original story, Documents uncover more evidence in Kirkland murders,, July 25, 2006:
KIRKLAND, Wash. – New court documents exclusively obtained by KING 5 News uncovers more evidence in the Kirkland arson and murders case. . .
(All I did was type "schierman" in the search box on KING's main page.) I did not see any photographs related to the file. (The PI's article covering the arraignment says that Conroy acknowledged that this motion was unlikely to be granted. Tracy Johnson, Kirkland man says he's not guilty of killings, arson, Seattle PI, Aug. 1, 2006.

Defense attorney Conroy also moved to extend the time limit the prosecutor's office (King County Prosecutor Norm Maleng) to decide whether to seek the death penalty. By statute (RCW 10.95.040), the prosecutor must file notice of seeking the death penalty within 30 days of the arraignment. The defense has moved for a 5-month extension -- i.e., making it 6 months.

As in many capital cases in Washington now, the defense will likely raise proportionality, since the death penalty was not imposed on Gary Ridgway, despite his pleading guilty to 48 counts of aggravated first-degree murder, because he cooperated with the prosecution in some unsolved murders.

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