Lawyers get access to key evidence in Stenson retrial

PORT ANGELES — Orders signed Thursday give attorneys for Darold R. Stenson access to key evidence in his upcoming double-murder retrial.

The order was signed by Clallam County Superior Court Judge George L. Wood, county Prosecuting Attorney Deb Kelly and University Place lawyer Blake Kremer, representing Stenson.

The evidence includes the sweatshirt and bloody pants that Stenson, 60, wore the day in March 1993 that his wife, Denise, and business partner, Frank Hoerner, were killed.

The two were murdered at Stenson’s Sequim-area Kane Lane exotic bird farm, Dakota Farms.

The evidence also includes Hoerner’s jacket and the headboard from the room where Hoerner’s body was found.

Stenson’s defense team also was given access to three containers of records.

The records include a box of U.S. Bank checks from Dakota Farms, an open bag of financial records and a box of bank records from Washington Mutual Bank — all of which can be copied by Stenson’s lawyers.

“State will begin copying no later than Aug. 19 at 11:30 and work eight hours (business) per day until completed,” the order states.

Kitsap County trial

Stenson’s four- to six-week Kitsap County trial on two counts of aggravated first-degree murder is scheduled to begin with jury selection Sept. 16, little more than four weeks from today.

Testimony is expected to begin Sept. 23.

Wood said help would be provided for copying documents to maintain that schedule.

The trial had been slated for July 8, but a continuance was granted in June till September.

“We need to get this matter going, and we are down to the last few weeks before going to trial,” Wood said.

A motion-to-compel hearing by Stenson’s lawyers is scheduled for 10:30 a.m. Wednesday in Clallam County Superior Court.

If granted, his legal team would have access to “several large (typically four-drawer-high) filing cabinets containing numerous financial documents related to Mr. Stenson’s finances and to the operation and finances of Dakota Farms,” Seattle lawyer Sherilyn Peterson said in the motion she filed Thursday.

Original conviction

Stenson was convicted of murdering his wife and Hoerner in 1994 and served time on death row until the state Supreme Court overturned the conviction in May 2012, eight days before his scheduled execution by lethal injection.

“At Mr. Stenson’s first trial, the state argued that the defendant had a financial motive to commit the murders,” Peterson said in her motion.

“Notwithstanding the importance of this issue, in 20 years of litigation, no defense counsel has apparently reviewed or inventoried these filing cabinets.”

Kelly said if the motion-to-compel is granted, “it should not have any impact” on the trial date.

Port Orchard lawyer Roger Hunko, representing Stenson, said Thursday “we are hopeful” the trial still would begin Sept. 16 if the request is granted.

Stenson is being held without bail in the Clallam County jail.

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Senior Staff Writer Paul Gottlieb can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5060, or at [email protected]

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