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Judge Won’t Let Jurors Hear Loukaitis Tape Judge Rules Conversation Between Teen, Attorney Can’t Be Used As Evidence

Fri., Nov. 15, 1996, midnight

A jury won’t get to hear what accused triple killer Barry Loukaitis said to his parents and lawyer hours after the Moses Lake junior high school rampage.

The two-hour taped conversation can’t be used as evidence, a judge ruled Thursday.

A taped conversation between accused killer Barry Loukaitis and a Moses Lake attorney cannot be used as evidence in his murder trial, a judge ruled Thursday.

Superior Court Judge Michael Cooper denied a motion by Grant County prosecutors to examine the tapes, recorded after police arrested Loukaitis, then 14, on Feb. 2.

That afternoon, Loukaitis has admitted entering his algebra class and opening fire with a high-powered hunting rifle.

Killed were teacher Leona Caires, and classmates Manuel Vela and Arnold Fritz. Student Natalie Hintz was wounded.

Police arrested Loukaitis and questioned him at the Moses Lake police station until attorney Garth Dano and the boy’s parents arrived.

For about two hours, according to prosecutors, Dano taped a conversation with Loukaitis about what happened during the rampage.

Prosecutor John Knodell argued attorney-client privilege shouldn’t apply to the police station interview because Loukaitis’ parents were present.

In Washington, conversations between a child and his parents are not given the same legal protection.

But Cooper ruled that the conversation is privileged, whether or not Loukaitis’ parents were in the same room.

Dano, who no longer represents Loukaitis, declined to comment afterward. “Legal ethics require me to say nothing at all,” he said.

Grant County Public Defender Guillermo Romero, who took over the case last spring, also would not comment.

“This would have been the mother of all confessions” if the court had ordered it available, Deputy Prosecutor Robert Schiffner said afterward.

“It’s the best evidence we could have of Barry’s state of mind” the day of the killings, Schiffner said.

Whether or not Loukaitis was sane at the time is the key question a jury will have to answer. Romero has said the teenager suffers from emotional problems and comes from a family with a history of mental illness.

In September, Cooper ordered Loukaitis to stand trial as an adult. If convicted of aggravated murder, he faces mandatory life imprisonment. Because of his age, the death penalty is not an option.

The trial is scheduled to start later this month in Ephrata, but Romero has asked for a delay.

After Cooper’s ruling Thursday, Dano refused to say whether he did, in fact, tape the interview the day of the murders.

“Legal ethics require me to say nothing at all. It’s not something I will comment on,” he said.

Schiffner said Cooper’s ruling gives prosecutors one new area to pursue. The judge ruled that as long as no attorney was there, any discussions between Loukaitis and parents are fair game.

“We will be asking them for depositions to find out if such conversations without an attorney took place,” said Schiffner.

, DataTimes


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