Jefferson County murder trial jury selection 'going slowly'
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Charlie Bermant/Peninsula Daily News
Michael J. Pierce sits with his attorney istens as attorney Richard Davies asks questions during jury selection Tuesday.

By Charlie Bermant
Peninsula Daily News

PORT TOWNSEND — The selection of a jury for the Michael J. Pierce retrial on charges of killing a Quilcene couple is in its third day, and there was no clear idea about when opening arguments will be presented.

“We could start trial on Thursday, or it could be sometime next week. I just don't know,” said Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Chris Ashcraft.

“The judge is taking his time making sure that we pick a fair jury.”

“It's going slowly,” said defense attorney Richard Davies, who unsuccessfully argued earlier this year for a change of venue for the retrial.

Pierce, 38, was convicted in 2010 of the first-degree murders of Pat and Janice Yarr on March 18, 2009, in a farmhouse near Lake Leland.

The state Court of Appeals on July 17 unanimously reversed the conviction — for which Pierce was serving a life sentence at Walla Walla State Penitentiary — and sent the case back to Jefferson County for a new trial after Pierce's attorneys successfully argued that his post-arrest statements should be repressed. The trial is scheduled to continue until Aug. 1.

Of 153 people from the jury pool who were interviewed Monday and Tuesday, 42 were excused for cause, with most of these challenges coming from Davies.

“I think it will be hard for them to find a full panel consisting of people who have lived around here for a while,” said Jean Camfield of Port Townsend, who was excused.

“You need to look at the number of people who have heard about this.”

Jury selection was expected to continue through perhaps Wednesday.

Potential jurors were questioned by Superior Court Judge Keith Harper, who asked if they had heard about the trial and whether they could consider the merits of the case solely on the basis of information presented at trial.

There was a mixture of yes and no answers, but many answered, “I don't know.”

Attorneys on each side can challenge an unlimited amount of jurors for cause, while the preemptory challenges are limited to six apiece.

Davies had requested a change of venue earlier, saying the media coverage of the case would make it hard to seat an objective jury.

Harper denied the request, stating the best way to determine whether a jury could be seated in a controversial case was to attempt to seat one.


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

Last modified: July 09. 2013 6:18PM
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