PORT ANGELES — In a rare display of courtroom drama, two murder trials have been scheduled for later this year at about the same time at the Clallam County Courthouse.
Ramona Ward of Forks is a 44-year-old Quileute tribal member charged with second-degree murder and homicide by abuse in the Nov. 11 death of a 2½-year-old boy, who she was taking care of when he died after hitting his head.
Clallam County Superior Court Judge Brian Coughenour moved her Superior Court trial Friday from mid-April to Sept. 11 after it was discovered that April proceedings would conflict with a judicial conference.
Tommy L. Ross Jr., 58, with no current address, is charged with first- and second-degree murder in the strangling death of 20-year-old Janet Bowcutt, whose body was found April 24, 1978, in her Port Angeles apartment.
Ross is scheduled to stand trial Aug. 28.
Ross, in the Clallam County jail on $1.5 million bail, has a March 27 status hearing.
Ward, in the county jail on $300,000 bail, has a June 30 status hearing.
Superior Court Administrator Lindy Clevenger said Tuesday that she cannot recall two murder trials being held at the courthouse in Port Angeles at the same time since at least 1974, when she began working in Superior Court.
Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Michele Devlin said Tuesday that Ward’s trial will likely take six weeks due to the number of witnesses — probably more than two dozen — who will be called to testify and the complexity of their testimony.
Ward tearfully asked Coughenour on Friday about how her grandchildren were doing.
Coughenour told her to ask her lawyer, Harry Gasnick of Clallam Public Defender.
Port Angeles lawyer Lane Wolfley, representing Ross, predicted Tuesday that Ross’ trial will take eight weeks.
He said recent DNA tests of material found under Bowcutt’s fingernails concluded it was not Ross’ DNA.
Sheriff Bill Benedict said Tuesday that metal detectors probably will be set up and people entering the two courtrooms screened while the two trials are going on.
“We usually do that for high-profile cases,” he said.
Clevenger said the jury in Ross’ trial in one courtroom on the courthouse’s second floor should be chosen by the time lawyers begin impaneling jurors for Ward’s trial in the other courtroom, decreasing the number of people there for the two trials.
“That’s very doable,” she said.
Senior Staff Writer Paul Gottlieb can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 55650, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.