Jefferson County to pay up to $46,302 for murder retrial defense

By Charlie Bermant
Peninsula Daily News

PORT TOWNSEND — The Jefferson County commissioners have allocated a maximum of $46,302, or $7,717 per month for the publicly-funded defense in the March retrial of a man charged with the double murder of Pat and Janice Yarr.

The retrial of Michael J. Pierce — a Quilcene man accused of the first-degree murders of the Yarrs on March 18, 2009, in their farmhouse near Lake Leland — will begin March 4 and is expected to continue through March 20.

Money approved by the commissioners Monday will be distributed to Pierce's attorney, Richard Davies, Jefferson County public defender, with the monthly allocation continuing through June or until the end of the trial, whichever comes first.

Pierce, 37, was serving a life sentence at Walla Walla State Penitentiary when the state Court of Appeals unanimously reversed his 2010 conviction on July 17.

The court granted a new trial, saying Pierce's request for an attorney after he was arrested was not immediately honored and that “inappropriate” statements were made by the prosecutor in the case.

Jefferson County Prosecuting Attorney Scott Rosekrans was chief criminal deputy at the time of the trial.

Pierce was transferred to the Jefferson County jail Jan. 3 and appeared in court by video Jan. 4.

His bond was set at $1 million. On Wednesday, he remained in jail.

Rosekrans has said the trial will cost only slightly less than the $370,883 used to prosecute the original case.

A pretrial hearing is set for 8:30 a.m. Feb. 8 at the Jefferson County Courthouse, 1820 Jefferson St.

Davies intends to file a motion for change of venue. He feels that Pierce cannot receive a fair trial in Jefferson County.

“I am actively putting together a change of venue request and it will be ready soon,” Davies said Wednesday.

On Jan. 18, Jefferson County Superior Court Judge Keith Harper ruled in favor of Davies, denying Rosekrans' motion to restrict public statements.

Davies characterized Rosekrans' motion as “a “gag order (that) is a restriction of free speech.”

In his brief, Davies also said he was misquoted in the Dec. 9 and Jan. 13 issues of the Peninsula Daily News, and that he did not use the word “confession” as a characterization of Pierce's suppressed statement.

In his brief, Davies said that the word “confession” was used several times by Rosekrans and in paraphrased quotes in both the PDN and the Port Townsend Jefferson County Leader.

The appeals court said that Pierce had made “incriminating statements” after he was booked into jail without benefit of an attorney and that these statements should not have been admitted into his trial.

Rosekrans said on Wednesday that neither he nor his staff will make any comments about the Pierce trial.

Pat Yarr was 60 and Janice Yarr 57 when they died. About 700 mourners attended a memorial service for the couple described as icons in the North Olympic Peninsula timber industry.

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Jefferson County Reporter Charlie Bermant can be reached at 360-385-2335 or at charlie.bermant@peninsuladailynews.com.

Last modified: January 23. 2013 6:22PM
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