Jury to be chosen this week in double murder retrial
By Charlie Bermant
Peninsula Daily News
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PORT TOWNSEND — The retrial of Michael J. Pierce, who was convicted of double murder in 2010, begins this week in Jefferson County Superior Court.
The three panels of potential jurors that were selected last week will appear consecutively today, Tuesday and Wednesday for voir dire, the jury selection process, with expectations that the 12 members and alternates could be chosen by Tuesday, said court administrator Michelle Lorand.
In preparation for the trial, 300 summonses were sent out, with 254 jurors appearing for possible empaneling, Lorand said.
If that occurs, the trial, which is expected to last until Aug. 1, could begin Wednesday, she said.
Pierce, 38, was convicted in 2010 of the first-degree murders of Pat and Janice Yarr on March 18, 2009, in a farmhouse near Lake Leland.
The state Court of Appeals on July 17 unanimously reversed the 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 after Pierce's attorneys successfully argued that his post-arrest statements should be repressed.
Jefferson County Prosecuting Attorney Scott Rosekrans appealed to the state Supreme Court, but the high court upheld the Court of Appeals' decision to overturn the results of the original trial.
Pierce has been in Jefferson County Jail since Jan. 3, awaiting the retrial, which has been postponed twice from its original March 10 court date.
Neither the Jefferson County prosecuting attorney nor public defender Richard Davies — the same attorneys as in the first trial — would provide specific comments about the case, although Assistant Prosecutor Chris Ashcraft said that “anytime you retry a case, you try to make it stronger the second time.”
One continuance request filed by the defense counsel stated that Pierce could not get a fair trial in Jefferson County and requested a change of venue.
The motion was denied by Superior Court Judge Keith Harper in April.
At the time, Harper ruled that the best way to determine whether a jury could be seated in a controversial case was to attempt to seat one.
Harper has been examining several pretrial motions in preparation for this week's trial.
He granted one, a prosecution motion to allow the testimony of Wallace Bowman from the first trial to be played in its entirety to jurors because Bowman is too ill to testify.
But he denied a defense motion to suppress the testimony of Jefferson County Sheriff's Dept. Sgt. Mark Apeland, who had identified Pierce in several still images and videos.
Davies unsuccessfully attempted to impeach Apeland's testimony.
Victims Patrick Yarr, 60, and Janice Yarr, 57, were a logging and cattle-ranching couple who had lived in Forks but were living on Boulton Farm Road north of Lake Leland.
At his first trial, Pierce also was convicted of setting fire to their house.
Jefferson County Editor Charlie Bermant can be reached at 360-385-2335 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Last modified: July 07. 2013 6:17PM