A Seattle criminal defense attorney who graduated from Gonzaga Law School will take over the defense of accused triple-killer Barry Loukaitis.
Michael Frost, a 1973 graduate of GU, was named Wednesday as the lead counsel for Loukaitis, who will go on trial next year on charges of gunning down three people in a Moses Lake junior high school classroom.
Frost was chosen after the 15-year-old Loukaitis criticized the ability of his appointed public defender, Guillermo Romero.
Judge Michael Cooper surveyed several defense attorneys, then asked Frost to take on Loukaitis’ defense. The teen has confessed to the shootings.
Frost met with Loukaitis and his parents in Ephrata last weekend, then told Cooper he’d take the case.
“This is a very tragic case with unusual circumstances,” Frost said Wednesday.
“I had to make sure the client wanted this to happen and that we’d get along. Once I felt he did, it was clear that this is a case worth doing,” Frost said.
Loukaitis will go on trial in Ephrata starting Feb. 4 nearly one year after killing Manuel Vela, Arnold Fritz and Leona Caires in his seventh-grade math class.
Vela and Fritz, both 14, were classmates of Loukaitis, Caires was his teacher. Another student, Natalie Hintz, was wounded in the afternoon attack.
Earlier this year, Cooper ruled that Loukaitis will be tried as an adult. If convicted of aggravated murder, he’ll spend the rest of his life in prison.
Up to this point, Loukaitis has barely cooperated with Romero, who had never handled a murder trial before.
Under Cooper’s appointment, Frost gets to say what role Romero will have as defense co-counsel.
“The judge made the right decision,” said Romero, adding that he wants to assist Frost in defending Loukaitis.
Frost has defended a number of people accused of murder, including several defendants facing the death penalty.
“Michael Frost is a very talented attorney,” said Moses Lake’s Garth Dano, who was originally Loukaitis’ attorney until Romero was appointed last spring.
Frost added that he suspects Cooper will end up moving the trial out of Grant County because of pretrial publicity.
“In my opinion, it’s impossible to get a fair trial in that community,” Frost said. “I think moving the trial will be the best way to avoid the influences of the community’s high emotional feelings about this case.”
Cooper has reserved ruling on the change of venue motion, opting to first try to select a jury in Grant County.
Loukaitis has insisted he is not guilty by reason of insanity. Prosecutors contend he knew what he was doing the day of the murders.