Statements admitted for looming trial on next-door neighbor's shooting death
By Rob Ollikainen
Peninsula Daily News
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Smith, 60, is scheduled to go to trial Oct. 7 on a first-degree murder charge for the death of Robert Fowler, 63.
Authorities said Fowler was shot multiple times in the living room of Smith's Port Angeles residence following a dispute.
Smith has maintained his innocence, claiming he shot Fowler in self-defense. Statements he made to that effect to authorities were the crux of the hearing.
In a Thursday court hearing, Judge George L. Wood ruled that statements Smith made to Detectives Jason Viada and Kevin Spencer — and Texas Ranger Jamie Downs — were made voluntarily.
Police did not arrest Smith immediately after the shooting.
Viada testified that he did not have probable cause to make an initial arrest.
Smith had moved to Amarillo, Texas, by the time the murder charge was filed in October 2011.
Arrested in Amarillo
He was arrested on a warrant by an Amarillo SWAT team and Texas Rangers, and was flown back to Port Angeles in police custody.
Smith is being held in the Clallam County jail on $1 million bail.
He is the longest-incarcerated inmate at the jail, having been there since October 2011.
Reasons for past trial delays have ranged from witness availability, new evidence, a forensic investigation, psychological analysis and the appointment of new counsel.
Port Angeles Attorney Karen Unger took the case from Clallam Public Defender in May.
Unger did not object to the admissibility of Smith's statements to Viada and Spencer.
She asked Wood to delay a ruling on the admissibility of Smith's statements to Texas Rangers until she had reviewed a video recording of the arrest.
“Without seeing that video, it's difficult for me to make a closing argument about what happened in Texas,” Unger said.
Wood said Smith's Miranda rights were read to him twice after he was arrested in Texas. Wood admitted the statements with the understanding that he would review the tape recording if Unger raised an issue with it.
Smith, a Navy veteran who suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder, was found competent to stand trial in May 2012.
Another hearing was scheduled for Thursday to review redactions of transcripts.
Reporter Rob Ollikainen can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5072, or at email@example.com.
Last modified: September 21. 2013 5:35PM