Second double-murder retrial for Michael J. Pierce to begin next week in Port Orchard
Michael J. Pierce
By Charlie Bermant
Peninsula Daily News
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The new month-long trial will begin at 9 a.m. Monday in Kitsap County Superior Court, 614 Division St., Port Orchard, with Judge Sally Olsen presiding.
Pierce, 38, is accused of killing Pat and Janice Yarr of Quilcene and setting their house on fire to hide the deaths on March 18, 2009.
He was convicted in 2010 and was sentenced in May to 118 years in prison for the double murders, as well as for the use of a firearm in each killing, first-degree robbery and burglary, theft of a firearm, unlawful possession of a firearm and second-degree theft of an access device.
He was serving a life sentence in Walla Walla State Penitentiary when the state Court of Appeals reversed the conviction July 27.
That decision came after Pierce’s attorneys successfully argued that his post-arrest statements should have been suppressed.
His first retrial in July in Jefferson County was stopped in its fourth day of testimony when a juror revealed that she may have seen Pierce walking by the side of U.S. Highway 101 one evening, though she could not recall the exact date.
Defense attorney Richard Davies had requested a change of venue prior to the retrial that was opposed by Jefferson County Prosecutor Scott Rosekrans and denied by Judge Keith Harper.
After the juror came forward, Rosekrans withdrew opposition to a venue change, and it was scheduled in Port Orchard.
Neither side expected the presentation of the case to differ substantially from the first two tries.
“He is charged with the same crimes as before,” Davies said. “Only this time, he will be judged by a jury of his peers.”
Said Deputy Prosecutor Chris Ashcraft: “It’s not going to be much different from the other two.”
The trial will begin with a series of pretrial motions, Ashcraft said, with 70 jurors to be brought in Monday afternoon and 70 more Tuesday.
Opening statements could begin as early as Wednesday, Ashcraft said.
The trial will take about a month, he predicted.
While both attorneys expect the presentation of the case to differ little from past trials, both have added witnesses.
Davies has listed five new witnesses. Ashcraft said the prosecution may oppose them.
The prosecution has indicated that it wants to call Lisa Baker, an acquaintance of Pierce’s girlfriend, Tiffany Rondeau, saying that Pierce “is guilty, he was high on meth, he went over there to rob them, didn’t get what he wanted, shot them and lit the place on fire to cover his tracks,” according to a motion from Davies.
Davies called Baker’s statement “hearsay.”
Also uncertain is the testimony of Laura Meynberg of Port Townsend, the juror who said she may have seen Pierce on the night of the murder but did not recall the incident until she heard the opening statements.
At the time, Rosekrans said he wanted to call Meynberg as a witness.
Ashcraft said Meynberg’s appearance will be determined during Monday’s pretrial hearing, while Davies called her previous recollections “pretty sketchy.”
Jefferson County received $197,000 from the state’s Extraordinary Criminal Justice Costs Act that went toward the $370,883 expenses of the first trial.
The county could not provide a total cost for the expense of the first retrial, although departmental documents indicate it approached $100,000, not including salaries.
There are no projections as to how much the current trial will cost, but expenses for both trials are not reimbursable, according to County Administrator Philip Morley.
The county is paying for both the defense and the prosecution, with Davies’ compensation to be as much as $92,604 for the new trial, according to a measure passed by the county commissioners Aug. 19.
Pierce’s incarceration costs the county $106.47 per day at a yearly cost of $38,861.
The county reported $53,062 in expenditures for the retrial, with the greatest item $33,568 for public defense charges.
The remainder included costs of witnesses, meal reimbursement and miscellaneous expenses.
Superior Court Clerk Ruth Gordon reported a $907 cost in assembling the jury.
Morley said Kitsap County will not be reimbursed for incarceration or judicial costs due to a reciprocity agreement between the two counties.
“Everyone talks about the cost, but they never say anything about justice,” Rosekrans said.
Added Ashcraft: “When we are in the middle of the trial, we never think about the cost.”
Pierce remained in the Jefferson County jail Thursday, where he has been incarcerated since March 1 awaiting a new trial. He will be moved to the Kitsap County jail.
Jefferson County Editor Charlie Bermant can be reached at 360-385-2335 or at email@example.com.
Last modified: February 20. 2014 7:02PM