Judge rules Port Townsend juror in first Pierce murder retrial can become witness in second

By Joe Smillie
Peninsula Daily News

PORT ORCHARD –– The ex-juror whose recollection of possibly seeing Michael J. Pierce the night he is alleged to have killed a Quilcene couple will take the stand in the second retrial over the killings.

Kitsap County Superior Court Judge Sally Olsen ruled during pre-trial motions Monday that Laura Meynberg of Port Townsend can be called to testify in the anticipated monthlong retrial.

Pierce, 38, is accused of killing Pat and Janice Yarr of Quilcene and then setting their farmhouse on fire to cover up the deaths on March 18, 2009.

A retrial ordered by the state Court of Appeals that reversed Pierce's 2010 conviction is taking place in Kitsap County Courthouse.

Jury selection is expected to last through today, with opening arguments expected Wednesday.

The retrial began in Port Townsend in July but was stopped during its fourth day after juror Meynberg said early testimony jogged her memory of seeing Pierce walking along U.S. Highway 101, possibly on the night of the crime.

Pierce's attorney, Richard Davies, argued for a change of venue during the retrial.

Jefferson County Superior Court Judge Keith Harper rejected that motion after Jefferson County Prosecuting Attorney Scott Rosekrans' objection, but Rosekrans withdrew his opposition to the new venue after Meynberg's recollection.

Rosekrans added Meynberg to the witness list for the new retrial, saying “she does have an independent recollection,” the prosecutor said Monday, “that wasn't necessarily jarred or sparked.”

Defender Davies said her testimony would have little relevance, saying Meynberg did not remember the date, type of car or seeing fire trucks on the night she believes to have seen Pierce.

“She can't even say what road she was on,” he said. “It's too remote in time. It's too inexact.”

Judge Olsen agreed to Rosekrans' request to put Meynberg on the witness stand, but was adamant that neither attorney mention the previous trial during questioning.

Several other witnesses — including some who were in jail with Pierce after his arrest — and the sister-in-law of one of the state's key witnesses were barred by Olsen from testifying.

Pierce faces charges for the two murders, along with using 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.

The state Court of Appeals ruled July 27 that statements he made after being arrested should have been suppressed.

Pierce was serving a life sentence in the state penitentiary at Walla Walla at the time. He was returned to Jefferson County jail in Port Hadlock.

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Sequim-Dungeness Valley Editor Joe Smillie can be reached at 360-681-2390, ext. 5052, or at jsmillie@peninsuladailynews.com.

Last modified: February 24. 2014 8:27PM
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