The trial of Andre Thompson and Bryson Chaplin won’t begin next week as planned, but Judge Erik Price said Wednesday that the delay won’t be long.
Attorneys on both sides of the case said they’re ready for trial. However, a new trial date hasn’t yet been announced, and no judge has been assigned to the case. Already two Thurston County Superior Court judges have removed themselves from the case because of rules governing judges: James Dixon and John Skinder.
Dixon recused himself after inadvertently receiving information about the case from a third party, said Court Administrator Pam Hartman-Beyer. Skinder, who was just elected judge in November, previously worked for the Thurston County Prosecutor’s office.
George Trejo, who represents Chaplin, also has filed an affidavit asking that Judge Carol Murphy not hear the case, on the grounds that his client has reason to believe he wouldn’t receive a fair or impartial trial. Trejo didn’t respond to requests for additional information.
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Price said Wednesday that there’s a good chance he will be the judge in the case, but two other Superior Court judges also are possible: Mary Sue Wilson and Chris Lanese.
“There has been a winnowing down of the options,” Price said.
“I don’t know that I can say definitively that I will be the judge trying this case. I can’t say that I won’t be.”
Thompson and Chaplin face assault charges resulting from an alleged May 21, 2015, attack on Olympia Police Officer Ryan Donald, who was attempting to apprehend the brothers after responding to a report of an assault on a supermarket employee. Both men were shot during the altercation with Donald, who was cleared of any wrongdoing.
Each suspect faces two counts of second-degree assault. Chaplin faces an additional charge of third-degree assault related to the alleged confrontation with the west Olympia supermarket employee.
Chaplin faces three counts of third-degree theft, based on allegations that he stole items from the supermarket. Thompson faces one related count of third-degree theft.
Price said a judge should be appointed to the case by March 1, when the parties will meet for another hearing.
Price described the case as “unusual.” It nearly went to trial in November with now-retired Judge Gary Tabor. Jury selection began Nov. 7, but Trejo was hospitalized a short time later because of an infection on his toe.
When attorneys met the following Monday, they asked for a week’s delay. But with the holidays approaching, Tabor opted to push the trial to March 6.
Tabor retired at the end of 2016. Whichever judge takes over will be starting without Tabor’s knowledge of the case.
Much of Wednesday’s hearing was spent discussing issues that Tabor may or may not have ruled on last year: whether Tabor could interview Olympia Police Officer Ryan Donald prior to trial about alleged Facebook posts, and whether jury questionnaires used in November must be used in the coming trial without alteration.
Deputy Prosecutor Scott Jackson said he believed the questionnaires were final, and that Tabor had closed the door on further interviews of Donald. But Trejo said that wasn’t his impression.
Price said that because many of the questions in the original questionnaire asked about holiday travel plans, it would likely need to be edited. He told Trejo that if he’d like to interview Donald again, he would need to file a written motion.
Attorneys predicted that the trial could take up to six weeks, but Price said that under normal circumstances, he’d expect a case involving similar charges to be much shorter. The prosecution’s witness list includes 76 people. The defense’s list includes all prosecution witnesses, plus six unique witnesses.
“There are a whole lot of reasons why a six-week trial is a poor decision by somebody,” Price said.