A Thurston County judge is urging prosecutors and attorneys representing Andre Thompson and Bryson Chaplin to have their cases ready for trial in early October.
The brothers, each facing assault charges, and their attorneys appeared before Superior Court Judge Gary Tabor on Thursday. The lawyers asked Tabor to postpone the trial to December or January, but the judge said the case must go to trial in October, if at all possible.
Jury selection is scheduled to begin Oct. 3.
“I would like to proceed to trial near or at the time it was previously set, unless that is proven impossible,” Tabor said.
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The case has been pending for a year, when the Thurston County Prosecutor’s Office filed charges against Chaplin, 22, and Thompson, 24. The brothers are accused of attacking Olympia Police Officer Ryan Donald with skateboards in the early hours of May 25, 2015, when he was trying to apprehend them after an incident at a nearby supermarket.
The officer shot Thompson and Chaplin, and reported that he feared for his life. Donald was cleared of any wrongdoing.
Thompson and Chaplin each face two counts of second-degree assault. Chaplin also faces one count of fourth-degree assault.
Several issues must be settled before the trial starts. At Thursday’s hearing, Chaplin’s attorney, George Trejo, said he will file a motion to have Donald deposed. He said that Donald refused to answer several questions about race. Trejo had previously argued with attorney Saxon Rodgers, who represents Donald, about whether the officer should have to submit to further interviews.
Attorney Sunni Ko, who represents Thompson, said she still must obtain copies of medical records for a medical expert to review, and that she is trying to work out schedules for crime scene and ballistic experts.
Tabor asked that the defense attorneys file copies of their witness lists. Deputy prosecutors Scott Jackson and Wayne Graham filed their 75-person witness list on Sept. 7. It includes law enforcement officers, forensic scientists, doctors, dispatchers, Safeway employees, medics and civilians who live in the neighborhood near where the incident occurred.
Tabor joked that “everyone who had ever heard of the case” was on the prosecutors’ witness list.
Tabor said the trial must continue as scheduled, in part, because of the large amount of preparation needed. The court will call 100 potential jurors and weed out those who have heard a lot about the case through the media and those who have preconceived opinions.
This will be done through jury questionnaires and interviews, he said. The process should take about a week.
Once jurors are selected, special precautions will be taken to make sure that the public doesn’t influence jurors’ opinions as they’re walking into the courthouse. Tabor said that given public interest in the case, this could be difficult — but it’s also important not to violate the First Amendment rights of the public.
“I don’t want jurors to walk a gantlet, if you will, through people expressing their opinions,” Tabor said.
The trial will be hosted in courtroom 102, Thurston County Superior Court’s largest courtroom, Tabor said. No other criminal trials will be scheduled during the estimated four weeks it will take to try the case.
Several factors would make rescheduling the trial difficult, Tabor said. In November, the Thanksgiving holiday would make scheduling a four-week trial difficult. The Christmas holiday would do the same in December.
And since Tabor isn’t seeking re-election, he’ll retire in early January. If all attorneys agree, however, he could come back as a guest judge in the case following his retirement.
Because of these factors, and because no other criminal trials have been scheduled in the four weeks following Oct. 3, the Thurston County Superior Court judges have advised Tabor not to let the trial be postponed again, Tabor said.
The trial already has been postponed three times, according to court records.
During the next two weeks, hearings will be conducted to determine whether Donald will need to be deposed and what evidence shall be presented to the jury.