The attorney for one of two teenagers charged in a triple murder wants to play a rock song as part of his opening statement at the trial. He contends the lyrics are a key to the boy’s behavior.
Grays Harbor County Superior Court Judge Mark McCauley said he will decide the matter before opening statements get under way Friday or early next week.
At a pretrial hearing Tuesday, Tom Copland, attorney for 18-year-old Nicholaus McDonald, also said he plans to call McDonald to testify at length about how the song affected him.
“This is almost a script. … It’s relevant to everything - the legal issues, the mental issues, why this happened, the way it happened,” Copland said of the song, “Israel’s Son,” by the Australian alternative rock group Silverchair.
McDonald and Brian Bassett, 16, are charged with three counts of aggravated first-degree murder in the deaths of Bassett’s parents and 5-year-old brother at the family home near McCleary. Bassett’s trial is set for March.
Jury selection for McDonald’s trial began Wednesday in Thurston County Superior Court in Olympia, in an attempt to reduce influence of publicity about the slayings. The trial will be held in Montesano.
After the killings, Bassett danced around the room, kicking the corpses of his parents to the strains of the rapidfire, heavy-guitar song, Copland said.
“Hate is what I feel for you,” the lyrics say. “I want you to know that I want you dead. … I hate you and your apathy. You can leave, you can leave. I don’t want you here. … Hate and execution. Put your hands in the air. Put your hands in the air.”
Prosecutors dispute the contention that the song was a factor in the brutal slayings.
“What does this prove?” Deputy Prosecutor Jerry Fuller said.
“Does this prove that Bassett hated his parents? Does it prove he had motive to kill his parents? No. All it proves is it was a song that he played.”
McDonald and Bassett are charged as adults in the Aug. 11 slayings of Michael, Wendy and 5-year-old Austin Bassett. Bassett is accused of shooting both his parents and McDonald of firing a final shot at Michael Bassett and drowning little Austin.
Both face life imprisonment if convicted.
The defense contends McDonald was not a willing participant, but feared for his own safety if he didn’t follow Bassett’s instructions. McDonald called police in Oregon after he and Bassett fled the state.
Prosecutors say the two teens planned the killings days in advance.
McCauley said he would read the lyrics and listen to the song, but hold off on a ruling until opening arguments are due to start. But he said the lyrics are “inflammatory, especially if used in opening and not in testimony.”
Music industry officials said the popular song, from Silverchair’s 1995 album “Frogstomp,” wasn’t intended to inspire murder. They doubt the band can be held responsible for a triple homicide.