UPDATE: Change of venue granted for double-murder retrial

By Charlie Bermant
Peninsula Daily News

PORT TOWNSEND— The judge in the murder retrial of Michael J. Pierce declared a mistrial today after recommendations by both the prosecution and defense that a change of venue was needed in order to conduct a fair trial.

The current trial ended after jury selection and four days of testimony, and was expected to end around Aug. 1.

The retrial will start anew most likely in Kitsap County in the fall, according to Jefferson County Superior Court Judge Keith Harper.

Details are yet to be decided, Harper said, and will depend on Kitsap County’s accommodation of the trial.

While prosecution and defense counsels will not change, the jury trial could be tried in front of a Kitsap County judge, or Harper could commute to the new venue.

Harper announced his decision in the wake of a juror’s disclosure last week that she might have witnessed Pierce walking alongside a Quilcene road the night of the murders of Patrick and Janice Yarr, although she was unsure exactly when the incident had taken place.

A fire at the Yarr farmhouse on March 18, 2009, was deliberate and was intended to cover up the two murders, according to testimony in Pierce's first trial in 2010 and the second trial last week.

The second trial for Pierce, 38, was ordered after his attorneys successfully argued that his post-arrest statements should have been suppressed in the first trial.

He was convicted of two first-degree murder charges in 2010 and was serving a life sentence in Walla Walla State Penitentiary when the Court of Appeals reversed the conviction last July 27.

The retrial began in Jefferson County Superior Court.

The juror, Laura Meynberg of Port Townsend, was dismissed from the jury, with Jefferson County Prosecuting Attorney Scott Rosekrans saying at the time that he would explore the possibilities of using Meynberg as a witness.

That statement was a factor in ending the trial, Harper said today, because to have Meynberg testify in front of a jury in which she was once a member would be unacceptable.

A status hearing on the retrial is scheduled for 8:30 a.m. Aug. 9 in chambers, 1820 Washington St.

After today's hearing, Pierce was taken to the Jefferson County jail in Port Hadlock, where he will remain until the beginning of the new trial.

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Jefferson County Editor Charlie Bermant can be reached at 360-385-2335 or cbermant@peninsuladailynews.com.

Last modified: July 22. 2013 11:41AM
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