Mistrial again in murder retrial of Quilcene man over withheld medication

By Joe Smillie
Peninsula Daily News

PORT ORCHARD –– The second retrial of murder charges against Michael J. Pierce of Quilcene ended in a mistrial this afternoon (Friday) after psychiatrists testified that withholding of anti-psychotic medication from Pierce by Kitsap County jailers likely brought on auditory hallucinations that plagued him during the trial’s proceedings of March 10.

Superior Court Judge Sally Olsen granted the mistrial motion brought by Jefferson County chief deputy criminal attorney Chris Ashcraft in the Kitsap County courtroom, saying Pierce’s right to a fair trial was “impossibly infringed” when the jail stopped administering his psychotropic medications.

The trial was the third for Pierce, manacled in court today, for the five-year-old murders of Quilcene farm couple Pat and Janice Yarr.

Pierce was serving a life sentence from a 2010 conviction in Port Townsend, but the state Court of Appeals overturned it.

A Port Townsend retrial was abruptly halted when a juror told the judge she might have seen a man resembling Pierce the night of the slayings.

A new retrial was ordered in a different location — Port Orchard — but that trial was ended today.

Psychiatrists testified that Pierce’s hallucinations March 10 caused him to be “distant” and to “stare” during that day’s proceedings, as his defense attorneys Richard Davies and Bret Roberts told the court.

“He hears voices,” Dr. Richard Yocum, a psychiatrist from Western State Hospital, testified.

Yocum said the voices are like a “radio playing in the back of his head” without medication.

He was declared incompetent to stand trial on separate charges in 2005.

Pierce can manage the voices when medicated, according to Yocum and defense psychiatrist Dr. Ken Muscatel. They agreed that he would be competent to stand trial when medicated, but was not competent during the March 10 proceedings.

Olsen ruled there would be no way to objectively re-create that day’s testimony.

Jailers cut off Pierce’s medication March 6 because he had not seen Dr. Kapil Chopra, the jail’s contracted psychiatrist, before his medication order lapsed.

Pierce was not inspected because he was in the courtroom for the trial when he was scheduled to see Chopra.

Judge Olsen granted Davies’ request for time to investigate whether the jail’s failure to give Pierce his medications would be a reason to have the charges dismissed.

A status hearing has been set for 1:30 p.m. April 18.

After Friday’s hearing, Pierce was returned to the Kitsap County jail, where he has been kept since Feb. 21.

Charges include the two killings, with firearm enhancements on each charge, as well as first-degree robbery and burglary, theft of a firearm, unlawful possession of a firearm and second-degree theft of an access device.

The appellate court rejected the 2010 conviction by ruling that statements Pierce made to deputies after his arrest could not be used against him because his request for an attorney after his arrest was not honored.

The appellate court also ruled that Jefferson County Prosecuting Attorney Scott Rosekrans, who was then chief criminal deputy prosecuting attorney, made “inappropriate” statements during Pierce’s trial.

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Sequim-Dungeness Valley Editor Joe Smillie can be reached at 360-681-2390, ext. 5052, or at jsmillie@peninsuladailynews.com.

Last modified: March 21. 2014 4:17PM
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