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Caleb Sharpe trial moved to June 2021 due to COVID-19 complications

UPDATED: Thu., July 23, 2020

Caleb Sharpe, left, confers with his defense attorneys after a hearing Thursday  (Jesse Tinsley The Spokesman-Review)
Caleb Sharpe, left, confers with his defense attorneys after a hearing Thursday (Jesse Tinsley The Spokesman-Review)

The trial of accused Freeman High School shooter Caleb Sharpe has been moved to June , after the COVID-19 pandemic caused difficulties in trial preparation.

Sharpe is accused of killing Sam Strahan and injuring three girls in a 2017 shooting at Freeman High School. After a hearing in July 2019, Judge Michael Price determined Sharpe would stand trial for first-degree murder as an adult.

Price agreed to move the trial after Sharpe’s public defenders, Anthony Beattie and Brooke Foley, along with prosecutor Kelly Fitzgerald, said trial preparations were impeded by the pandemic.

An expert evaluation of Sharpe was scheduled to occur earlier this year, but due to strict jail visitation regulations has been delayed indefinitely.

Fitzgerald said the state would likely have its own expert also evaluate Sharpe, which would take additional time.

Both the defense and prosecution agreed on the new timeline.

Sharpe has been jailed for nearly three years. In agreeing to wait another year for his case to be heard, he waived his right to a speedy trial.

With the living victims of the shooting graduating from high school in 2021, Fitzgerald suggested the trial be moved to June, after the school year concludes.

“The families, obviously, are not happy about the delay,” Fitzgerald said.

Price agreed to push the trial back, sighting concerns of the logistics of holding such a complex trial during the pandemic.

“I’ve wanted to get this case going and we need to get this tried for everyone’s sake, including Mr. Sharpe’s,” Price said.

Price noted that he presided over a less-complex jury trial last week and “the obstacles were almost insurmountable.”

Price did “apologize profusely to those awaiting this trial,” noting family members of the victims, including Ami Strahan, were attending the hearing via teleconference.

While Price set a June trial date, he noted that COVID-19 cases are continuing to rise in the Spokane area and that he does not “know how realistic” the new date is.

“With a great deal of trepidation, I’m going to adopt counsel’s proposed schedule,” Price said.

The prosecution and defense will continue to have bimonthly status conferences with Price over the next year.

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