COLVILLE – Spokane County prosecutors ended their first-degree murder case against Christopher H. Devlin without calling the only person they believe witnessed the killing.
Defense attorneys Mark Vovos and Roger Hunko implored Superior Court Judge Jerome Leveque to allow them to tell jurors that prosecutors Larry Steinmetz and Dale Nagy agreed to give Carl A. Hoskins a deal in exchange for testimony – that as it turns out never came.
“He’s the only guy who saw anything, supposedly,” Vovos said. “If they didn’t believe him, why would they give him the 27 months?”
Steinmetz refused to comment about why he didn’t call Hoskins as a witness in the trial against 57-year-old Devlin, who is charged with the May 2008 slaying of 52-year-old Daniel Heily.
Prosecutors initially sought the death penalty for Devlin because he’s accused of killing a state’s witness. At the time, Heily was scheduled to testify against Devlin for a previous felony assault charge in which Heily was the victim. But Heily didn’t show up for the May 14, 2008, trial. His bullet-riddled body was found two days later stuffed under the front seat of his pickup in Deer Park.
But Leveque took the death penalty off the table when he ruled earlier this year that Nagy and Steinmetz mismanaged the case when they did not tell defense attorneys for more than a year that they had evidence that the killing took place in Stevens County.
Because elements of the crime also allegedly took place in Spokane County, Leveque ruled that Spokane County would prosecute the case before a Stevens County jury.
Nagy talked about Hoskins, who initially was charged with first-degree murder, in his opening statement. But Steinmetz said Wednesday that he believes the state has proven its case against Devlin without the need for Hoskins to testify.
Vovos called it a strategic move, surmising that prosecutors intended to call Hoskins after Devlin took the stand in his own defense. But Devlin chose not to testify.
“It came like a bombshell that the state was not going to call their main witness,” Vovos said. “After 42 years of practice, I’ve never had anything like this happen.”
Steinmetz hinted that he did have plans to call Hoskins as a rebuttal witness.
“Mr. Devlin doesn’t want to take the stand because Mr. Hoskins would contradict what he said,” Steinmetz told Leveque.
Leveque said it was a difficult decision but maintained his earlier ruling that the jury would not be instructed about the deal prosecutors gave Hoskins.
Hoskins was released from jail last August after having served enough time to satisfy the 27-month sentence as part of the deal. It’s not clear whether that deal remains in place now that he wasn’t called to testify.
The defense has rested after calling only a couple witnesses.
Prosecutors will call a rebuttal witness before attorneys work on jury instructions. Closing arguments are expected to take place Friday, Leveque said.