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Say yes when a young person calls

Two weeks ago, a University of Washington student, Sarah Ward, emailed me with this request: I am taking an interviewing class this quarter in which I need to have an informational interview with someone, that I do not know, in my field of choice.

I didn't know Sarah but I remembered the words of Spokane County Superior Court Judge Tari Eitzen who said to me years ago : When a young person comes calling always make room in your schedule.

So it was an automatic yes to Sarah. On her second email, she revealed this: Her mother, Geneva Ward, had just died. Her mother's hope was that Sarah would finish the class she had postponed to be with her  in her last days at Hospice House in Spokane.

And, in all ways Spokane, I knew Sarah's mother when we were younger. Geneva went to Holy Names Academy at the same time I was attending Spokane's other all-girls high school, Marycliff.

So I'm so happy I said yes even before I knew this.

And Sarah's here with me today, asking about journalism and writing. I know why her mom was so proud of her. She's smart and beautiful and she didn't hesitate, at 26, to put her Seattle life on hold while being with her mother in the sacred days at Hospice House.

Here's a photo of Sarah with her mom at UW's graduation June 11.

(Photo courtesy of Sarah Ward)

Charge dropped in car seat death

A vehicular homicide charge was dismissed Thursday against a Post Falls mother whose daughter was fatally injured while riding in an improperly installed car seat five years ago.

Spokane County Superior Court Judge Tari Eitzen agreed with defense arguments that 26-year-old Eileen C. Jensen’s failure to correctly use the car seat was tragic but not criminally negligent, ending a legal case that brought widespread public attention to car seat safety issues.

Read the rest of my story here.

Read the rest of my story here.

Feb. 18, 2009: Mother arraigned on vehicular homicide charge in car seat case

Nov. 28, 2007: Vehicular homicide charge possible in infant's death

Insanity defense explored in ‘08 murder

The aggravated murder trial of accused crossbow killer Cole K. Strandberg will proceed in January following a hearing to allow his defense attorney to present a case that his client should be acquitted because he is insane. 

Defense attorney Chris Bugbee asked Superior Court Judge Tari Eitzen Tuesday for what amounts to a mini-trial on Jan. 5 to present evidence about his client’s mental state at the time of the killing. Strandberg has been diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia.

Eitzen reluctantly agreed, but said the January trial date is “written in concrete.”

Strandberg, who was featured earlier this year in a Discovery Channel episode of “Behind Bars,” is charged with sexually assaulting and using a crossbow to kill 22-year-old Jennifer Bergeron on Jan. 7, 2008.

Eitzen denies Stark motions, again

Spokane County Superior Court Judge Tari Eitzen has denied a request by convicted killer Shellye L. Stark’s lawyer to reconsider her denials of a new trial or arrest of judgment.

Julie Twyford had filed a motion that included a declaration from a Spokane County Jail inmate who said another inmate had told her her father served on the Stark jury and discussed details of the case when he wasn’t supposed to.

“Even if true, does it make a difference?” Eitzen said at today’s hearing. “Even if a juror talked to someone about what was going on in jury deliberations, is that in and of itself grounds for a mistrial?

“Is the rememdy some sort of sanction to the juror? I’m pretty sure the remedy isn’t vacating the verdict. Again, let the Court of Appeals decide.”

Also at issue for the defense is Eitzen’s sentencing Stark to consecutive sentences for first-degree murder and conspiracy to commit murder. Twyford has argued the sentences should be served at the same time, but Eitzen said that’s another issue for the Court of Apeals to handle.

Stark’s mother, two sisters and teenage son attended the hearing, along with Spokane police detective Kip Hollenbeck.