Double-murder retrial venue change granted; Stenson going to Kitsap County court

Peninsula Daily News

PORT ANGELES — A Clallam County judge has ordered a change of venue for the retrial of Darold Stenson, who is accused of two 1993 murders.

Clallam County Superior Court Judge S. Brooke Taylor ruled during a hearing late Thursday.

“After considerable deliberation, I came to the conclusion that it is not only probable, but highly probable, that we could not get an impartial, open-minded jury in Clallam County,” Taylor said.

“Mr. Stenson could not get a fair trial in this county for all the reasons set forth in the opinion, which I don’t need to elaborate on here in court.”

Taylor said he will preside over the trial in Kitsap County.

Jury selection is scheduled to begin on July 8.

After announcing the change of venue, Taylor rendered moot a defense motion to compel the release of achieved material from the now-defunct Peninsula News Network and Northland Cable News and KONP radio.

He also denied a defense motion to order the production of disciplinary and training records of state witnesses.

Stenson, 60, is being held in the Clallam County jail without bail.

He is charged with two counts of first-degree murder for the shooting deaths of his wife and business partner at his exotic bird farm near Sequim.

Stenson served time on death row until separate stays of execution were issued in 2008.

His 1994 conviction was overturned by the state Supreme Court last May and remanded to Clallam County for a new trial.

He is being represented by lead attorney Roger Hunko of Port Orchard, Sherilyn Peterson of Seattle and Blake Kremer of University Place.

Peterson filed a motion to move the trial to King County because of a “consistent barrage of negative media coverage to the small Clallam County population.”

She cited more than 150 articles that have appeared in the Peninsula Daily News and Sequim Gazette over the past 20 years, radio and television news stories, and a 1993 episode of “A Current Affair,” a then-nationally syndicated Fox television newsmagazine that “covered the case in a sensational manner, thrusting this small community into the national limelight.”

Clallam County Prosecuting Attorney Deb Kelly took the death penalty off the table last December, announcing that she would instead seek a life sentence for Stenson.

Peterson filed a supplemental motion for a change of venue in February after Clallam County Sheriff Bill Benedict told KONP Radio that Stenson’s death penalty-qualified defense team was an unnecessary expense to county taxpayers.

Last modified: April 04. 2013 6:22PM
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