Jury seated in Jefferson County double-murder trial
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Charlie Bermant/Peninsula Daily News
Charlie Bermant/Peninsula Daily NewsRichard Davies, left, who is representing Michael J. Pierce and Jefferson County Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Chris Ashcraft discuss opening statement schedules after a jury was seated on Tuesday.

By Charlie Bermant
Peninsula Daily News

PORT TOWNSEND — Opening arguments in the retrial of Michael J. Pierce on double-murder charges will begin Monday after a jury was seated Thursday afternoon on the fourth day of selection — unless the judge grants a renewed request for a change of venue Friday.

The change-of-venue hearing is scheduled for 11:30 a.m. Friday in Jefferson County Superior Court, with Pierce — who stands accused of the murders of Pat and Janice Yarr, a well-known Quilcene couple — appearing by video monitor.

“There were a number of things said by juror candidates about what they felt about the defendant that gives us some doubt about Mr. Pierce's ability to get a fair trial,” said Richard Davies, the public defender who is representing Pierce.

The trial, which is expected to continue until Aug. 1, is the second for Pierce on first-degree murder charges in the killings of the Yarrs on March 18, 2009, in a farmhouse near Lake Leland.

Pierce, 38, was convicted in 2010 and was serving a life sentence in Walla Walla State Penitentiary when the state Court of Appeals reversed the conviction July 27 after Pierce's attorneys successfully argued that his post-arrest statements should be suppressed.

It will be Davis' second try at moving the trial out of Jefferson County. Judge Keith Harper denied Davies' previous venue-change motion in April.

Prosecuting Attorney Scott Rosekrans said he “is not concerned” about the motion.

“He made his motion and will try to create his record, and we'll see what happens,” Rosekrans said.

The schedule now is that Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Chris Ashcraft, who is trying the case with Rosekrans, will make an opening statement at 9 a.m. Monday in Jefferson County Superior Court at the courthouse at 1820 Jefferson St.

The prosecution's opening statement will be followed by one from the defense.

A jury was seated at about 2:45 p.m. Thursday after four days of sifting through the jury pool.

Sixteen people were chosen: eight men and eight women. Four of these will be designated as alternates before testimony begins, Harper said during his instructions to the jury.

Jury selection was completed without the attorneys using all of their peremptory challenges.

“The judge was extremely thorough,” Rosekrans said.

“We started at 177 and got down to 49, and he left no stone unturned.”

Superior Court Administrator Michelle Lorand said, “We actually finished before I expected.”

The attorneys in this second trial are the same as those who argued in the original 2010 trial. The presiding judge is new, having been elected to fill the post once held by Judge Craddock D. Verser.

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

Last modified: July 11. 2013 6:13PM
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