Two men charged in the death of an Edgewood man killed in a home-invasion robbery will be tried separately from each other and from two co-defendants.
Pierce County Superior Court Judge Rosanne Buckner ruled Tuesday that Joshua Reese, 21, and Clabon Berniard, 24, cannot get fair trials if tried with their codefendants.
Buckner reserved ruling on whether a third defendant, Amanda Knight, 22, deserves a separate trial. The judge is expected to rule Friday on Knight’s request to have her trial severed from that of Kiyoshi Higashi, 22.
All four are charged with first-degree murder and other counts for allegedly killing James Sanders, 43, in April.
Prosecutors contend the four terrorized Sanders and his family before Higashi shot Sanders when he fought back. The defendants targeted the family for robbery after Sanders advertised a ring and other items on the online classified advertising website Craigslist, according to court records.
They’ve all pleaded not guilty.
Reese, Berniard and Knight argued Tuesday that their Sixth Amendment right to cross-examine witnesses would be violated if they did not receive separate trials.
Reese, Knight and Higashi all made statements to police after their arrests that implicated themselves and their co-defendants. If they chose not to testify at trial, their codefendants could not challenge those statements, defense attorneys argued.
Prosecutors countered they could edit the statements thoroughly enough to remove any potential problems, but Buckner sided with the defense.
Joint trials in multiple-defendant cases are favored in Washington because they save witnesses from testifying multiple times on the same case and conserve other judicial resources.
The burden is on the defense to convince a judge that separate trials are necessary.
The four were to go to trial Monday. Attorneys will discuss new trial dates Friday.