Judge calls emergency hearing to renew Pierce’s waiver of speedy trial

By Charlie Bermant
Peninsula Daily News

PORT TOWNSEND — A Kitsap County judge’s inspection of court documents pertaining to a murder retrial of Michael J. Pierce resulted in an emergency hearing to renew Pierce’s waiver of a speedy trial.

Pierce, 38, of Quilcene, who was convicted in 2010 of killing Pat and Janice Yarr of Quilcene in 2009, has had two retrials declared mistrials and is awaiting a date for a third retrial.

Kitsap County Superior Court Judge Jay B. Roof was inspecting the court record when he discovered that Pierce’s waiver of a speedy trial was set to expire May 24 and a promised renewal had not been formalized.

Roof contacted Jefferson County on Tuesday with a request for an immediate hearing, which took place in Jefferson County Superior Court on Wednesday, according to Superior Court Clerk Ruth Gordon.

Roof made a special trip to Port Townsend to conduct the hearing, Gordon said.

Defense attorney Richard Davies had said in open court April 18 that he would have a waiver signed.

He said in an email this week that Pierce signed the waiver April 22 and that Davies had planned to file it at the next scheduled hearing May 23 but that he had not informed the court or the prosecution of this.

The document extends the waiver to Oct. 31.

Pierce, who is now being held in the Jefferson County jail in Port Hadlock, was serving time in prison when he was granted a second trial by the Court of Appeals last summer.

That trial, which was in Jefferson County, ended in a mistrial after one of the jurors remembered seeing a man who might have been Pierce on the night of the murders and was then considered a potential witness.

The venue was changed to Kitsap County, where a second mistrial was called after it was found that jailers had failed to give Pierce the medication that helped him understand the proceedings.

If the waiver had expired, the prosecution would not have been able to try its case in a third retrial, Jefferson County Prosecuting Attorney Scott Rosekrans said.

Or the trial would have needed to begin before the expiration of the waiver, according to Davies.

Rosekrans said the failure to extend the waiver would not have resulted in Pierce’s release since Davies had promised in court to renew the document.

“It would have been an appellate point because Richard had agreed to get the document in open court,” Rosekrans said.

“But it would have been another battle we didn’t need to fight, so I’m grateful that Judge Roof caught this.

“He wanted to make sure we got this on the record. Because of what happened in the jail, he didn’t want to compound the issue.”

Pierce’s next retrial will be the topic of a hearing at 1:30 p.m. May 23 at the Kitsap County Courthouse, 614 Division St. in Port Orchard, with Kitsap County Superior Court Judge Sally Olsen presiding.

The court is expected to either schedule the next retrial date or set pretrial hearings, according to Deputy Prosecutor Chris Ashcraft.

One item on the agenda will be a deadline for Davies’ expected motion to dismiss all charges, Rosekrans said.

“Preliminary information suggests that his medications were withheld deliberately,” Davies wrote.

“Should the full investigation confirm that jail’s actions were deliberate, then the defense will file a motion to dismiss the case.”

Kitsap County Sheriff’s Office Chief Deputy Ned Newlin, who supervises corrections, said Thursday: “It was not deliberate. I can say that with certainty.

“A mistake was made and was entirely accidental.”

________

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

Last modified: May 08. 2014 7:12PM
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