Second appeal of double-murder conviction fails

Man was sent to prison for double murder in 2014

PORT TOWNSEND — The second appeal filed by convicted double-murderer Michael J. Pierce has been denied by the state Court of Appeals.

Pierce, 46, of Sequim was convicted and sentenced in 2014 for the 2009 murders of Pat and Janice Yarr of Quilcene.

He appealed in 2015; that appeal was denied, said Chris Ashcraft, Jefferson County deputy prosecuting attorney.

His second appeal since then is the most recent one to be denied. The court of appeals rejected his claims on Aug. 4, according to court documents.

Judge Sally Olsen of Kitsap County Superior Court sentenced Pierce to 117 years in prison for killing the Yarrs and then setting their home on fire, as well as other charges on Dec. 12, 2014.

Pierce’s second appeal claimed there was insufficient evidence that he committed the crimes and that his double-jeopardy rights had been violated by two mistrials. The court summarily rejected his claims.

In rejecting the appeal, the court said Pierce missed the filing deadline and did not prove insufficient evidence.

Pierce is required by state law to have filed a petition to appeal within a year of judgment being final. The judgment became final on April 7, 2017, and he didn’t file his last appeal until July 26, 2018, according to the court ruling.

“Pierce’s statements to others and actions after the crimes are sufficient evidence … The disappearance of Pat Yarr’s .25-06 rifle following [the] murders and arson is sufficient evidence of theft of a firearm,” the court ruling said.

“Pierce’s entry into the Yarrs’ home to collect a debt while armed with a pellet pistol, shooting the Yarrs in their home, and subsequently taking items from the Yarrs is sufficient evidence of both burglary and robbery,” according to the ruling.

The court also rejected Pierce’s double-jeopardy claims.

“He was not sentenced for both murder and robbery, and there was evidence of an independent purpose of the robbery from the murder, so double jeopardy was not violated,” the court said.

Pierce’s other claims failed as well because he consented to the first mistrial so he could get a Kitsap County jury, and the second mistrial was due to a manifest necessity, the release said.

The court found that “Pierce fails to show double jeopardy. Thus, his petition must be dismissed as time-barred.”

Jefferson County Prosecutor James Kennedy supported the appeal dismissal.

“I hope this result brings a measure of peace to the surviving family,” he said in a press release. “I thank the Court for making the right ruling and appreciate the hard work put in by Laura Mikelson, Phil Hunsucker and Chris Ashcraft, who all collaborated to achieve what I believe is a just result.”

Pierce was first tried and convicted for the crimes in 2010 and received a slightly longer sentence of 117 years and 11 months from the late Craddock Verser, who was then Jefferson County Superior Court judge.

In August 2012, as Pierce was serving time in the state penitentiary in Walla Walla, his 2010 conviction was overturned by the state Court of Appeals.

The court ruled that Pierce’s constitutional rights were denied after his arrest and that the closing arguments by the then-prosecuting attorney, Scott Rosekrans, represented prosecutorial misconduct, a finding Rosekrans disputed.

Two subsequent retrials ended in mistrials before Pierce was convicted on all counts.

Pierce, who had 14 prior felony convictions at the time he committed the murders, was not only sentenced to 117 years in prison but also was ordered to pay $222,601.57 in restitution. He is currently housed in Walla Walla State Penitentiary.

The Yarrs, described as “icons” in the timber industry at their memorial service, which drew 700 people, were known throughout the North Olympic Peninsula.

Additional information regarding the 2014 trial and the 2009 murders can be found at www.peninsuladailynews.com/news/michael-j-pierce-given-117-year-sentence-for-yarrs-double-murder.

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Jefferson County reporter Zach Jablonski can be reached at 360-385-2335, ext. 5, or at [email protected]

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