Retrial of accused double-murderer postponed until May [Corrected)
How defendant Michael J. Pierce appeared in court Friday: On closed-circuit video from the Jefferson County jail in Port Hadlock. -- Peninsula Daily News photo
By Charlie Bermant
Peninsula Daily News
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Court hearing ends; judge to rule on bid to dismiss double-murder charges on Jefferson County defendant next week
In December, the Supreme Court denied the state’s petition for review and declined to review the decision of the Court of Appeals. That decision essential ordered the retrial of Pierce in connection with the slayings of Pat and Janice Yarr.
Additionally, County Prosecuting Attorney Scott Rosekrans said Monday that he might comment on the trial, but future comments will be in accordance with prosecutorial rules to keep pretrial publicity to a minimum.
PORT TOWNSEND — The retrial of a Quilcene man who was convicted in 2009 of double murder was continued until the middle of May after the defense asked for more time to prepare.
The retrial of Michael J. Pierce, 37, has been postponed to May 20.
Jefferson County Superior Court Judge Keith Harper on Friday approved the request from attorney Richard Davies, who for the second time is representing Pierce, who was convicted in 2010 of the first-degree murders of Pat and Janice Yarr on March 18, 2009, in their farmhouse near Lake Leland.
The retrial, which is expected to take three weeks, originally had been scheduled for March 4.
Pierce, appearing on video from the Jefferson County jail, on Friday waived his right to a speedy trial, which was guaranteed to occur within 60 days of his return to Jefferson County on Jan. 4.
The state Court of Appeals on July 17 unanimously reversed Pierce's 2010 conviction — for which Pierce was serving a life sentence at Walla Walla State Penitentiary — and sent the case back to Jefferson County for a new trial.
Jefferson County Prosecuting Attorney Scott Rosekrans appealed to the Supreme Court, but the high court upheld the Appeals Court's decision.
Pierce will be incarcerated in Jefferson County for the duration of the trial.
The trial dates may be moot, since Davies said he intends to file a motion for change of venue due to the belief that Pierce cannot get a fair trial in Jefferson County.
“There is no guarantee of any of these dates because if I get a change of venue, these dates might not be available,” Davies said.
Davies said Friday that he intends to file that motion Feb. 22 after examining the jury questionnaires, completed prior to Pierce's original trial.
Deputy Prosecutor Chris Ashcraft, who called the notion of a change of venue “a worst-case scenario,” opposed the continuance.
“This is the same trial with the same facts,” he said. “The more we put it off, the more likely we are to run into complications.”
Some complications were seen as Harper attempted to schedule the new trial.
Davies originally requested a June 1 date, but Ashcraft said he had a trip planned in mid-June that could not be changed and suggested May.
Davies said he had to attend a graduation in early May and was not available for the entire month.
Harper said he did not want to delay the trial into July.
Superior Court Clerk Ruth Gordon said the jury pool from the second half of May and the first half of June will be called together.
Prosecutors have anticipated a retrial, and Rosekrans has not removed the original trial's documents from his office.
While Ashcraft claims the retrial will be the same as the original trial, Davies said one of the reasons he wanted more time is to explore the original evidence and determine if there were any new witnesses that can be found.
Pierce, who appeared in court through a video uplink, has changed his appearance by growing a long goatee.
Several members of the Yarr family were in attendance Friday but declined to comment on the case.
Rosekrans has said that neither he nor his staff will make any pretrial comments.
Jefferson County Reporter Charlie Bermant can be reached at 360-385-2335 or at email@example.com.
Last modified: February 11. 2013 1:08PM