Ruling set on prison transfer for former death row inmate

By Rob Ollikainen
Peninsula Daily News

PORT ANGELES — Darold R. Stenson will find out whether he can move from the Clallam County jail to the state prison in Shelton on Oct. 24.

The 59-year-old former death row inmate is charged with two counts of aggravated murder for the shooting deaths of his wife and business partner in the Dungeness Valley in 1993.

Stenson’s attorneys argued in a Wednesday court hearing that he should be transferred to the Washington Corrections Center because his medical needs are not being met in the county jail, a contention disputed by Clallam County Sheriff Bill Benedict.

Clallam County Superior Court Judge Ken Williams said he would rule on a motion to compel the transfer Oct. 24 at 1:30 p.m.

Stenson is accused of shooting his wife, Denise, and business partner, Frank Hoerner, at his bird farm near Sequim.

His 1994 conviction was overturned by the state Supreme Court in an 8-1 ruling in May.

The court found that Stenson’s rights were violated when the state did not provide photographs and FBI lab notes to Stenson’s lawyers until 2009.

The photograph in question showed the Clallam County Sheriff’s Office’s lead investigator wearing Stenson’s bloodstained jeans.

Won’t hear appeal

The U.S. Supreme Court announced Tuesday that it would not hear an appeal of the state Supreme Court ruling that was filed by the Attorney General’s Office in August.

Clallam County had set aside $100,000 for the appeal, which was to be argued by the state Attorney General’s Office on behalf of Clallam County.

Clallam County Prosecuting Attorney Deb Kelly could not be reached for comment Friday or Saturday.

Kelly re-charged Stenson with two counts of first-degree aggravated murder July 18. She has said she intends to seek the death penalty.

Stenson was moved from the state penitentiary in Walla Walla to the Clallam County jail July 19 and pleaded not guilty July 24. He is being held without bail.

Transfer order

On Aug. 16, Clallam County Superior Court Judge S. Brooke Taylor signed an order to transfer Stenson to the Washington Corrections Center, a 1,268-man holding facility for convicts headed to other men’s prisons in the state.

A four-week trial is scheduled to begin March 4.

Stenson’s trial could cost $1.4 million, County Administrator Jim Jones has said.

Stenson’s newly appointed primary attorney, Roger Hunko of Port Orchard, filed a motion to appoint two more lawyers to the case.

Seattle attorney Sherilyn Peterson, who has represented Stenson for the past four years, issued a declaration seeking to assist Hunko.

Williams on Aug. 20 appointed Peterson and Blake Kremer of University Place to Stenson’s defense at a rate of $125 per hour.

In an Oct. 5 motion for the transfer to Shelton, Peterson said Stenson has Type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, acid reflux, gout and a hernia.

Stenson suffered a heart attack in 2009 and had three prior heart attacks, she said.

“This transfer was and is necessary because of Mr. Stenson’s serious health issues,” Peterson wrote.

“The state now refuses to transfer Mr. Stenson, despite its earlier agreement to do so.”

Peterson said the jail does not allow Stenson to use his medications when he needs them and that her client has not had adequate time to exercise.

“During the time that Mr. Stenson has been at Clallam County jail, his health has deteriorated and continues to do so,” Peterson wrote.

Peterson said all parties agreed that Stenson should be housed at Shelton but that the state Department of Corrections and Benedict could not agree on who should pay for the transfer, “so they were no longer planning to transfer Mr. Stenson.”

Benedict said there is no dispute with Corrections.

Medical needs met

He said Stenson’s medical needs are being met at the county jail.

The only outstanding issue, Benedict said, is who will to pay for the transfer.

Benedict said he has offered to split the cost with the state Department of Corrections.

“If that’s unacceptable to DOC, I may well say ,‘Well, OK, leave him here,’” Benedict said.

“I don’t care if he’s here or if he’s in Shelton, except the only way he can get there is through a contract [with DOC]. The law essentially allows, by mutual agreement, DOC and I to swap prisoners. The kicker is who’s going to pay what.”

The regular contract for prison transport does not apply to Stenson because his conviction was overturned, and he is no longer a sentenced prisoner.

Benedict said it would cost his office about $450 to transport Stenson to Shelton with two deputies on overtime.

Assistant State Attorney General Ronda Larson filed an amicus brief on behalf of the DOC on Oct. 8.

“Never before has the Washington Department of Corrections been forced to take custody of an offender who has not yet been tried and convicted,” she wrote.

“The law forbids it.”

Larson argued that the real reason behind the motion to compel Stenson’s transfer is proximity to his lawyers.

Stenson wrote his own declaration Oct. 10 saying he was concerned about the person with whom he was sharing a one-man cell, and that he felt “it was inappropriate and unhygienic to have two persons in a one-man cell.”

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Reporter Rob Ollikainen can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5072, or at rollikainen@peninsuladailynews.com.

Last modified: October 13. 2012 5:17PM
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