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Sirens & Gavels

The Devlin is in the details

The death penalty case against Christopher H. Devlin has turned into a legal mess in which prosecutors from two counties are squabbling over who should pay for the costly trial.

Spokane County Superior Court Judge Jerome Leveque has twice ruled on where the case should be held. First in 2008, Leveque ordered the case to remain in Spokane County after Deputy Prosecutor Larry Steinmetz argued that the May 2008 killing of a 52-year-old disabled Chattaroy man was planned and carried out and the victim’s body was found in Spokane County, where the body also was found.

But testimony from a co-defendant, who has been given a promise of lesser charges in exchange for his testimony, indicates that the killing actually took place in Stevens County. Read the rest of Thomas Clouse’s story in tomorrow’s Spokesman-Review. (Read a previous story on the case here.)

The case is the only death penalty case in the Spokane. Devlin’s co defendant, Carl Hoskins, also faced a first-degree murder charge but was released from jail on his own recognizance on Aug. 31 under a court order.

If he continues cooperating, Hoskins will face charges of second-degree assault, first-degree rending criminal assistance and be sentenced to 27 months in prison with 18 to 36 months probation, according to court documents.

Stevens County Prosecutor Tim Rasmussen opined about this case in his weekly column.

Read what he had to say by clicking the link below.


By Stevens County Prosecutor Tim Rasmussen:

It is voting time again and that means that there will probably be problems regarding the manner in which some ballots are filled out. Please be aware that there are criminal penalties for some violations of these laws. Our office is currently considering charges on someone because during the last election it appears they voted in Oregon as well as Washington. This person was apparently following the rule, “vote early, and vote often.” This you cannot do. The rule is, “one person, one vote.” The investigation is this case is not yet complete, but there is evidence the person voted twice, and while the instructions can be a little confusing, it is hard to see how a person could vote twice by accident. If you have a question about how to correctly fill out the ballot, ask some one to help you. If you want your vote to count, it is important to do it right, but vote only once.

On Friday, October 23, 2009, I attended another hearing in the Devlin case in Spokane County. This is the murder case in which Spokane County is seeking the death penalty. The prosecution of this case has been in Spokane County since the murder in May of 2008. There is evidence that the planning and preparation for the murder occurred in Spokane County and the body was found there, but because there is some evidence that the actual murder took place just inside the Stevens County line, the Court has ruled there should be a change of venue in the case.

The scope of that change of venue is the issue. Usually venue issues result from publicity that might affect the jury selection process and so deny the defendant his right to a fair trial, but in this case, there have been some efforts to transfer the entire prosecution and defense of the case to Stevens County. Because the transfer would entail a huge expense to our county for the prosecution and defense of this case, I resisted the transfer of the prosecution responsibilities. (A similar case in Okanagan County some years ago cost that county $750,000.) After the hearing, it became clear that the prosecution of this case will continue to be done by Spokane County, but the case will most likely be heard by a jury picked from Stevens County.


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