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Sirens & Gavels

Posts tagged: King County Superior Court

Seattle murder suspect confesses to jury

By GENE JOHNSON,Associated Press
SEATTLE (AP) — A man wearing a shock sleeve to control outbursts and hand mitts to prevent him from stuffing dangerous items into his mouth testified Wednesday that he committed the horrific rape and stabbing of a lesbian couple in Seattle two summers ago.

“I was there and I was told by my God, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, to attack my enemies, and I did so,” Isaiah Kalebu said under questioning by one of his lawyers.

Closing arguments in the case were presented later in the day, and a jury began deliberations before adjourning until Thursday.

The trial started three weeks ago, but the testimony was the first time jurors had seen Kalebu, who was previously so disruptive in court that the judge barred him from attending.

He watched the trial via closed circuit television from another courtroom before indicating he wanted to exercise his constitutional right to testify in his own defense.

He was wheeled into court in restraints, wearing an electroshock sleeve, a yellow shirt and dark tie, and the oversized white mitts. He recently was hospitalized after swallowing a small pencil.

Prison guards stood by ready to activate the Taser-like sleeve in case Kalebu acted out, but he remained docile. The courtroom had been rearranged to prevent jurors from seeing his restraints.

Kalebu, 25, testified while sitting at the defense table, and even remained sitting while the jurors filed in — usually everyone in the courtroom must rise. He kept his hands by his lap as he was sworn in.

He answered only two questions on the stand: One about whether he knew about the events, and another about whether he'd been diagnosed with mental illnesses. He answered the latter affirmatively as prosecutors objected on hearsay grounds.

Kalebu is accused of slipping in an open window of the couple's home in Seattle's South Park neighborhood and repeatedly raping and stabbing them during a two-hour attack. One woman, Teresa Butz, died naked and blood-soaked in the street in front of her home as neighbors tried to help. Her partner survived and told the jury that Kalebu was the man who did it.

He's also suspected in an arson that killed his aunt and one of her tenants in Pierce County, south of Seattle, but has not been charged in that case due to a lack of forensic evidence.

Kalebu is not pursuing any type of mental-health defense. His lawyers, Michael Schwartz and Ramona Brandes, have argued that he didn't commit the crime — a contention prosecutors say is disproved by DNA evidence and witnesses.

Prosecutors are not seeking the death penalty due to Kalebu's history of mental illness. Experts have found that although he might suffer from bipolar disorder, he has been faking or exaggerating the symptoms. In January, he was found competent to stand trial.

If he's convicted, he could face life in prison with no opportunity for release.

Murder defendant to wear shock device

SEATTLE (AP) — Jurors have spent the past three weeks listening to sometimes heart-wrenching testimony about the brutal rape and stabbing of a lesbian couple.

Now they're finally going to get their first look at the defendant, who will be wearing an electroshock sleeve so guards can jolt him if he gets out of line. 

Isaiah Kalebu, 25, (pictured earlier this month) was so disruptive in pretrial hearings — sometimes cursing his own lawyers and knocking over chairs — that Judge Michael Hayden barred him from attending his own trial.

But that decision has run up against Kalebu's constitutional right to testify in his own defense, and Hayden said Tuesday he was taking special precautions to keep everyone in the courtroom safe when Kalebu testifies Wednesday.

The judge also warned him against thinking he could obtain a mistrial by resorting to his old tricks, which have included swallowing a small pencil at the King County Jail earlier this month.

“If you disrupt the courtroom as you have in the past, the jury will be excused and we will end your testimony,” Hayden said. “There will be no mistrial.”

“I'm not planning on acting up,” Kalebu responded as he sat strapped into a restraint chair.

Kalebu is accused of slipping in an open window of the couple's home in Seattle's South Park neighborhood two years ago and repeatedly raping and stabbing them during a horrific two-hour attack. One woman, Teresa Butz, died naked and blood-soaked in the street in front of her home as neighbors tried to help; her partner survived and told the jury that Kalebu was the man who did it.

The use of such electroshock sleeves — called a Band-It — is rare but not unheard of during criminal trials. They consist of a small box that can be wrapped around a defendant's arm or leg and activated remotely by a corrections officer. The device would only be activated if Kalebu tries to assault someone, escape or otherwise refuses orders — not if he starts swearing or being verbally disruptive.

A defendant wore one during a trial in King County three years ago, and courts in other states have upheld their use as long as they are worn under street clothes to prevent jurors from seeing them.

Kalebu will also be wearing soft leather restraints under his clothes, and he'll testify while sitting from the defense table, rather than the witness stand, to prevent jurors from seeing his restraints or the electroshock device — either of which could be grounds for a mistrial, because such a glimpse could prejudice jurors.

The defendant's behavior has been extreme, even when he's not in the courtroom. He's been repeatedly taken to the hospital for what prosecutors dubbed “suicide gestures” rather than serious attempts, and he was hospitalized June 15 for the pencil-swallowing incident.

He first indicated that he wanted to testify Monday, when prosecutors rested their case. He said he wanted to be wrapped in a “dragon robe” or an American flag to hide his restraints, but Hayden refused.

He planned to question himself, because his lawyers didn't want to ask him anything. Instead, Hayden insisted Tuesday that Kalebu dictate in advance what questions he wanted asked, and one of his lawyers will ask them.

Despite a history of mental illness, Kalebu is not pursuing any type of mental-health defense. His lawyers, Michael Schwartz and Ramona Brandes, are arguing that he didn't commit the crime — an argument prosecutors say is amply disproved by DNA evidence and witnesses.

Prosecutors are not seeking the death penalty due to Kalebu's history of mental illness. Experts have found that although he might suffer from bipolar disorder, he has been faking or exaggerating the symptoms, and in January, Hayden found him competent to stand trial.

If he's convicted, he would face life in prison with no opportunity for release.

Seattle murder suspect injures self again

Isaiah Kalebu is pushed by police officers to a room to watch the proceedings of his trial via closed-circuit television at King County Superior Court June 6 in Seattle. (AP Photo/The Seattle Times, Ellen M. Banner)

SEATTLE (AP) — The murder trial of Isaiah Kalebu resumed Wednesday afternoon after he was treated at a hospital for a medical situation that developed Monday morning while he was alone in his cell at the jail, the King County Prosecutor's Office says.

This is the second time in two weeks he was taken to a hospital. Trial was interrupted on June 15 when he swallowed a small pencil.

Kalebu is charged with aggravated murder, attempted murder, rape and burglary in a July 2009 stabbing attack on two women at their Seattle home, in the South Park neighborhood. Teresa Butz died of her wounds; her partner survived and has testified that Kalebu is her attacker.

If convicted, he faces life in prison without parole.

Past coverage:

June 9: Survivor of Seattle attack testifies

June 7: Man barred from own trial in rape case

Seattle murder suspect swallows pencil

Isaiah Kalebu is pushed by police officers to a room to watch the proceedings of his trial via closed-circuit television at King County Superior Court on June 6 in Seattle. (AP Photo/The Seattle Times, Ellen M. Banner)

SEATTLE (AP) — The defendant in a Seattle murder and rape trial was taken to a hospital after swallowing a small pencil during a recess.

KOMO-TV says officials originally said it was possible Isaiah Kalebu would require endoscopic surgery, but a Harborview Medical Center spokeswoman said Tuesday afternoon it was likely he would be treated and released.

Guards saw him swallow the item, similar to the pencils golfers use to record scores.

KOMO says officials are studying case law for the next move in the trial and recessed for Tuesday afternoon.

Kalebu is charged with aggravated murder, attempted murder, rape and burglary in a July 2009 stabbing attack on two women in their Seattle home. Teresa Butz died of her wounds; her partner survived and has testified that Kalebu is her attacker.

The man has a history of mental illess.

Past coverage:

June 9: Survivor of Seattle attack testifies

June 7: Man barred from own trial in rape case

Survivor of brutal Seattle attack testifies

Woman who survived brutal Seattle attack testifies
By GENE JOHNSON, Associated Press
SEATTLE (AP) — Awakening in the middle of the night to find a half-naked man looming over her bed with a knife, the woman had one goal: to keep completely still, to do nothing that would risk angering him or causing him to use the knife on her or her partner.

It didn't work, she testified. During a horrific two-hour attack, the man repeatedly raped and cut them, killing her partner, Teresa Butz, who collapsed and died in the street in front of their South Seattle home, naked and covered in blood, as stunned neighbors tried to help.

The 38-year-old woman who survived the attack two years ago took the witness stand in King County Superior Court on Wednesday afternoon and described her ordeal publicly for the first time in the trial of the man charged in the attack, Isaiah Kalebu, 25.

Kalebu, who has been barred from the trial because of prior outbursts, was not in the courtroom during her testimony. Defense attorneys have said they plan to argue he did not commit the crimes.

“It was like, you want to be so still,” she said. “I just didn't want to aggravate him, or do something that would make things worse for Teresa.”

She said she believed her attacker was “a rapist who would leave.” When senior deputy prosecutor James Konat asked her why, she answered that it was because he kept saying he would.

Kalebu, who has a history of mental illness but is not presenting a mental-health defense, is charged with aggravated murder, attempted murder, rape and burglary in what's been described as a random attack on Butz and her partner at their home the night of July 18, 2009. Prosecutors are not seeking the death penalty; he would face life in prison without release if convicted.

Kalebu is accused of entering the home through an open window — it was a hot night, and Butz, a native of St. Louis, was philosophically opposed to using air conditioning in Seattle. The city doesn't get hot enough, her partner testified.

The Associated Press is not identifying her because she is a victim of sexual assault.

Her testimony ranged from terrifying details of the attack — how the man, pacing slowly through the bedroom, knife in hand, closed the three windows one-by-one — and cheerful, sometimes emotional recollections of the time she shared with Butz, their first kiss and the way Butz fit perfectly into a $70 wedding dress she was going to wear at their upcoming commitment ceremony.

“She kind of had a fire and a spunk to her that I was really drawn to,” she said.

The woman flashed broad smiles and laughed often as she described their lives together. They met because Butz was a commercial real-estate manager who oversaw the floor on which the woman worked, but Butz initially wouldn't return her calls. She talked of their last day together, which they spent going to a weight-loss class, drinking beer on a tour of South Seattle microbreweries, going to her wedding dress fitting, and grilling steaks at home.

They had been planning to spend the night in the suburb of Marysville that night for a friend's birthday party, but were exhausted from their busy day and stayed home instead.

Butz's family didn't approve of their wedding plans, but the woman said Butz was excited that evening because she had just spoken on the phone with her mother, who had indicated she might attend the ceremony. Several of Butz's relatives were in the courtroom.

“They may not have agreed with our choice, but I knew there was no question they loved Teresa, and I knew there was no question they loved me,” she said.

She choked up as she spoke of their plans to have children together.

Though she had described the rapes by the end of court Friday, she had not yet testified about the stabbings. She was to resume testifying Thursday morning.

Prosecutors say the attack finally ended when Butz — just 5-foot-2 — kicked Kalebu off a bed and used a small table to break a window, through which she left. Kalebu ran out of the house, and Butz's partner left too, naked and covered in so much blood that she had trouble opening the front door of the home, authorities said.

Before Butz died from a stab wound to her heart, she reportedly told a neighbor: “He told us if we did what he asked us to do, he wouldn't hurt us. He lied, he lied.”

Kalebu was arrested after he was identified using DNA evidence and surveillance video from an earlier unsolved burglary at the city hall in the suburb of Auburn. The attack kept the neighborhood on edge until Kalebu's arrest six days later.

Man barred from own trial in rape case

In this May 12 photo, accused rapist and murderer Isaiah Kalebu, lower center, is taken in a wheeled restraint chair through a hallway at the King County Courthouse following a court hearing in Seattle. Judge Michael C. Hayden has taken the unusual step of tentatively barring Kalebu from attending his own trial when opening statements began in King County Superior Court on Monday because of outbursts during pre-trial hearings. Instead, Kalebu will be able to watch the proceedings via closed-circuit television from a nearby courtroom.

By GENE JOHNSON,Associated Press
SEATTLE (AP) — The trial of a man accused of horrifically raping and stabbing a lesbian couple began without him Monday, after a judge barred him for repeatedly interrupting pretrial hearings with profane outbursts.

Isaiah Kalebu, 25, was chained in a restraint chair in a room on a different floor of the courthouse after King County Superior Court Judge Michael Hayden took the unusual step of barring him.

Kalebu sat in a heavy suicide-protection smock and a neck brace and he watched the proceedings by closed-circuit television. An apparent attempt on his own life landed him at a Seattle hospital on the eve of the trial, but a prosecutor called it a “suicide gesture” rather than a serious attempt.

Defendants have a right to be present at all stages of their trial, but can forfeit that through disruptive behavior.

Kalebu is charged with aggravated murder, attempted murder, rape and burglary in the random attack on Teresa Butz and her partner at their home in Seattle's South Park neighborhood.

The judge has said he will reconsider allowing Kalebu in the courtroom if he promises to behave. Defense attorneys said that Kalebu asked Monday to attend opening statements, but jail staff declined to relay that request to them or to the court — a development one of his lawyers, Michael Schwartz, described as troubling.

A jail spokesman did not return a call seeking comment.

Even if Kalebu attends the trial, he could be forced to wear an electroshock sleeve, which could be activated by a deputy if he tries to attack anyone in the courtroom.

Hayden told jurors before opening statements that whether Kalebu is present has no bearing on his guilt or innocence.

Kalebu was arrested after he was identified using DNA evidence and surveillance video from an earlier unsolved burglary at the city hall in the suburb of Auburn. The two-hour-long attack on Butz and her partner kept their neighborhood on edge for days until Kalebu's capture.

Butz was credited with helping her partner escape when she kicked the attacker off a bed and threw a metal table into a window through which she climbed. She collapsed and died in the street as stunned neighbors tried to help. She was naked and covered in blood from having her throat cut and heart stabbed.

Senior deputy prosecutor Brian McDonald told the jurors that much of the testimony and evidence in the case would be difficult to hear and see.

“But what I suggest won't be difficult is determining that the crimes occurred, and the defendant is the person who committed them,” he added.

The couple, who was planning their commitment ceremony, was asleep when they found Kalebu standing over them with a large chef's knife, telling them, “Shut up, I won't hurt you,” McDonald said. Kalebu came in through an open window, he said.

Kalebu raped the women repeatedly as he held the knife to their necks, McDonald said. When he started to slash their throats, Butz — just 5-foot-2 — kicked the 6-foot-tall suspect off the bed and created a diversion that allowed her partner to escape and seek help, authorities said.

Her partner was covered in so much blood that she had trouble opening the front door to escape, the prosecutor said. Before Butz died, she told a neighbor: “He told us if we did what he asked us to do, he wouldn't hurt us. He lied, he lied.”

The first witness to testify was neighbor Jennifer Lutz, who had just finished feeding her 17-day-old baby when she heard the sound of glass breaking and saw Butz fall from a first-story window.

Butz's partner survived the attack and is expected to testify.

Despite a history of mental illness, Kalebu is not pursuing a mental-health defense; several experts determined him to be faking or exaggerating his symptoms. Instead, his lawyers say they will argue that he didn't commit the crime.

His pretrial antics have included swearing at the judge and lawyers involved in the case, knocking over chairs and gesturing obscenely at photographers.

The defense lawyers did not make an opening statement, saying they reserved the right to give one later.

Prosecutors will not seek the death penalty if Kalebu is convicted, due to his history of mental illness. Instead, he would face life in prison without release.

Eye surgeon convicted in murder plot

SEATTLE (AP) — The co-founder of a Northwest chain of eye-surgery centers has been convicted of plotting to kill his business partner.

Dr. Michael Mockovak of Clearly Lasik eye centers was found guilty Thursday of four counts, including attempted murder. The King County Superior Court jury deliberated for less than two days.

Prosecutors said Mockovak was willing to pay more than $100,000 to have business partner Dr. Joseph King killed, and that he solicited an employee to hire an assassin. The jury acquitted Mockovak of trying to have the company's former president also killed.

Mockovak's lawyers claimed the employee goaded him into the plot after Mockovak raised the idea as a joke.

Clearly Lasik has offices throughout the Pacific Northwest and Western Canada. The company reported earnings of $17 million in 2007, but that figure dipped to $10 million in 2008.

Mockovak will be sentenced in March.

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