A juror was dismissed this morning from the first-degree murder trial of Shellye Stark after disclosures that he had improperly discussed the case during a social gathering last week, including comments about one of the prosecutors’ apparent struggle to conceal his baldness.
Mike Cathcart acknowledged the discussion when questioned today by Spokane Superior Court Judge Tari Eitzen, and was removed from the jury without objection from the prosecution or the defense. He was replaced by one of the three alternates who have been present each day of the trial.
The matter was brought to Eitzen’s attention by the prosecutor’s office.
A deputy prosecutor not involved in the Stark case, David Stevens, told Eitzen that he had been at an open house for a friend’s business last Wednesday and Cathcart, whom he knew as a past officer on the Spokane County Republican Central Committee, was there as well.
“What’s up with that guy that’s got the comb-over?” Stevens quoted Catchcart as asking him at the social gathering. “And then I said, ‘That’s Larry Haskell, I think he had hair plugs in the past.’”
Stevens told Eitzen that Catchcart had mentioned how the lawyers and the judge in the case were good before asking about Haskell’s hair style. Haskell is one of two prosecutors assigned to the Stark trial.
Jurors generally are admonished at the beginning of criminal trials to avoid discussing the cases they’re hearing with anyone, including one another, until after arguments have concluded and deliberations have begun.