Defense to ask for delay in Stenson murder trial

By Rob Ollikainen
Peninsula Daily News

PORT ANGELES — Nearly 20 years after the shooting deaths of Frank Hoerner and Denise Stenson at a Sequim-area bird farm, an attorney for accused double-murderer Darold Stenson has filed a motion to continue his March 4 retrial.

Clallam County Chief Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Mark Nichols told Superior Court Judge S. Brooke Taylor last Friday that both sides agreed to continue the status hearing until this Friday.

'Some idea' for delay

Taylor, who last summer set a March 4 date for the retrial of Stenson — who at one time had been days from execution — asked Nichols for “some idea” of why there needed to be a delay.

Nichols told the judge Friday that he had just received a motion from defense attorney Roger Hunko speaking to additional discovery and the need to locate witnesses who have moved within the past two decades.

“I will defer to the motion itself,” Nichols said.

Hunko's motion had not appeared in Stenson's 857-document court file as of Friday evening.

Taylor signed an order to transport Stenson from the Washington Corrections Center in Shelton to the Clallam County Courthouse and scheduled the Friday hearing for 10:30 a.m.

Stenson was moved from the county jail to Shelton in November after the state Department of Corrections and Clallam County Sheriff's Office agreed to split his transportation cost and to swap inmates, a routine practice that was complicated by the fact that Stenson is no longer a convicted state prisoner.

Convicted in 1994

Stenson, now 60, was convicted in 1994 for the March 1993 deaths of his wife, Denise Stenson, and business partner, Hoerner.

Darold Stenson, a former death row inmate, was nearly executed by lethal injection in 2008 at the Washington State Penitentiary in Walla Walla.

Retired Clallam County Superior Court Judge Ken Williams issued a stay of execution just days after a new witness came forward with information alleging that Stenson had been framed.

Stenson was moved from Walla Walla to the Clallam County jail in May when the state Supreme Court overturned his 1994 conviction and ordered a new trial.

The high court ruled 8-1 that Stenson's rights had been violated because evidence had been mishandled by investigators.

Second trial

County Prosecuting Attorney Deb Kelly announced last month that she would not seek the death penalty in Stenson's second trial.

She said she reached the decision after consulting with the victim's families.

“Ultimately, they and I believe the only path to resolution that avoids many similar years of delay lies in taking the death penalty off the table,” Kelly wrote in a Dec. 19 statement.

After the Friday hearing, Nichols said the request to continue the status hearing was a joint request, but the request to continue the trial came from the defense.

“The CliffsNotes version, based on my quick review of Hunko's motion, is that he said something like: 'Well over 100,000 pages of documentation have been developed over the last two decades,'” Nichols said.

“'Furthermore, different witnesses and people with information have kind of scattered across the country, so additional time is needed to locate them.'”

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

Last modified: January 05. 2013 5:44PM
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