Just a week after Freeman High School observed a moment of silence to remember Sam Strahan, a Spokane County judge rescheduled to Oct. 5. 2020, the first-degree murder trial of Caleb Sharpe, who is accused of killing Strahan and injuring three girls in a school shooting three years ago.
Superior Court Judge Michael Price agreed to delay the trial after previous defense attorney Bevan Maxey withdrew because of Sharpe’s parents’ inability to pay for his services.
On Friday, Deputy Spokane County Public Defenders Brooke Foley and Anthony Beattie appeared for the first time with Sharpe, who is charged with first-degree murder and three counts of attempted first-degree murder stemming from the Sept. 13, 2017, shooting at Freeman.
Deputy Spokane County Prosecutor Kelly Fitzgerald asked Judge Price to make the 2020 trial date rigid because of the number of prospective jurors, which she said would be 200 for what is expected to be a four-week long trial.
“The victims and families have waited a long time for this process,” Fitzgerald said. “We ask the initial continuance of 12 months to be the last continuance.”
She said Tom Krzyminski, director of the Spokane County Public Defender’s Office, has asked county commissioners for $250,000 to pay for Foley and Beattie and an investigator to work only on the Sharpe case.
For her part, Foley said she’s a “little worried about a firm and hard date. I understand (considerations for the) family and victims, but we are coming into this case two years late,” she told Price.
The judge said nothing in the law prevents Foley and Beattie from asking for continuances, but he noted he must reschedule dozens of cases to clear his schedule for a four-week-long trial. He is also concerned about the time it will take to bring in 200 prospective jurors in 50-person blocks for the selection process.
“You are going to have trouble finding jurors willing to serve for four weeks,” Price said. “That’s the bigger problem.”
Price asked the attorneys to meet every 60 days going forward for status conferences “so I can keep a tight rein on things. I want that (trial date) to be a hard-and-fast date,” he said.
The trial originally had been scheduled for Oct. 7, which Maxey previously said in court was not realistic, given the volume of reports and expected expert testimony regarding Sharpe’s maturity and mental capacity at the time of the shooting.
It took attorneys nearly two years to hold the July declination hearing, in which Price ruled that Sharpe, who was 15 at the time of the shooting, would stand trial as an adult on the murder charge, attempted murder charges and 51 counts of second-degree assault related to other students who prosecutors say were put at risk during the shooting.
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