July 3, 1997 in Nation/World

Accused Killer To Plead Guilty To Manslaughter After Two Juries Deadlocked, Andrews Could Be Free In Weeks

By The Spokesman-Review
 

The man at the center of Spokane’s costliest criminal case is expected to strike a plea bargain today, ending a three-year legal battle and becoming a free man within several weeks.

Just five months ago, Joseph “JoJo” Andrews faced a possible death sentence.

Now, he’s expected to plead guilty to two counts of first-degree manslaughter for a pair of execution-style shootings in February 1994.

He has stood trial twice this year for the aggravated murders of Eloise Patrick and Larry Eaves, both 37. Both times, jurors could not reach a verdict.

Andrews’ attorneys and Spokane County prosecutors have decided to avoid a third murder trial in a case with meager prosecution evidence and witnesses saddled with criminal records and histories of drug abuse.

“I’m relieved; that’s about all I can say at this point,” said Phillip “Dutch” Wetzel, a private attorney hired by the public defender’s office to defend Andrews.

After the first mistrial, Spokane County Prosecuting Attorney Jim Sweetser put Andrews on trial again, without the death penalty option.

Again, jurors deadlocked.

Three of the 12 said they weren’t convinced Andrews, who had known Eaves and apparently sold him “crack” cocaine, committed the murders.

Sweetser said Wednesday the county needs to pursue other criminal cases and move on.

Bringing Andrews, 27, to trial twice has cost Spokane taxpayers about $600,000 in defense costs. Prosecutors have not yet tallied their expenses.

But Sweetser said his decision was based on legal issues rather than the costs involved.

“After two tries, we had to look at the risks and benefits of a third trial,” he said.

Because Andrews has no prior state convictions, prosecutors will recommend he receive a 51-month sentence for manslaughter.

But he’s entitled to get that sentence reduced by one-third for good behavior. He’s already served 35 months in the Spokane County Jail with no problems - one more month than his reduced sentence would require.

After sentencing, Andrews will be transferred to the state Department of Corrections process center in Shelton. Corrections officials will release him after a brief stay “which could be as little as two days,” said an attorney familiar with the case.

Wetzel said Andrews is not confessing to the killings of Eaves and Patrick. Instead, Andrews is accepting an “Alford plea” that does not admit guilt but acknowledges there is evidence that could convict him of the lesser charges.

Prosecutors say Andrews, who moved to Spokane from California in early 1994, shot Eaves as a warning to others to pay off drug debts.

Both Eaves and Patrick were in a car near downtown with Andrews the night of the murders. Prosecutors say Andrews killed them at close range with a 9mm pistol. Both victims were shot three times in the head.

Prosecutors had no physical evidence tying Andrews to the crimes, but they did have the testimony of Tarri Green, his former girlfriend. She said she sat in the car with Andrews when he took out his gun and began shooting.

In both trials, defense attorneys Wetzel and Kevin Curtis raised doubts about Green’s credibility. They suggested she was fingering Andrews to avoid prosecution herself.

Spokane County Public Defender Don Westerman said he was “ecstatic” at the likely plea bargain.

Westerman hired both private attorneys to avoid conflicts of interest on Andrews’ defense team. State law requires that attorneys from different offices be hired if the trial involves witnesses who have been defended by public defenders.

Two defense lawyers were required, inflating the legal bill to taxpayers, because Andrews faced a possible death sentence.

, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Color Photo


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