By Paul Gottlieb
Peninsula Daily News
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The Clallam County prosecuting attorney's actions surrounding an unpublished book manuscript her mother wrote about Stenson's first murder trial almost two decades ago should disqualify Kelly from prosecuting Stenson this time around, a lawyer for Stenson has claimed.
University Place lawyer Blake Kremer filed the motion Thursday in Clallam County Superior Court to disqualify Kelly from prosecuting the case.
Kremer said Kelly lacks impartiality and has a conflict of interest regarding her actions surrounding the manuscript written by her mother, Sunshine Snyder, 89, about Stenson's first trial on charges of murdering Denise Stenson and Frank Hoerner at Stenson's Sequim-area exotic-bird farm in March 1993.
Jury selection in Stenson's retrial is set to begin, with jury selection Sept. 16 at the Kitsap County Courthouse in Port Orchard. A change of venue from Clallam County was granted in April.
Stenson, now 60 and charged a second time in connection with the shooting deaths of his wife, Denise, and business partner, Hoerner, was found guilty of the murders and was sentenced to death in 1994, a conviction the state Supreme Court overturned in 2012.
Kremer's motion will be argued at a 2 p.m. hearing Tuesday in Superior Court before Judge S. Brooke Taylor.
Kelly denied any wrongdoing in an interview Thursday.
“The allegations are ridiculous,” she said.
“I look forward to the hearing.”
Whether there is a continuance to trial “depends on what Judge Taylor's rulings are,” Stenson's lead attorney, Roger Hunko of Port Orchard, said Thursday.
“We are not asking for a continuance.”
Kremer said Kelly did not disclose the existence of her mother's manuscript, which she had read, until notifying Hunko of its existence in an Aug. 27 letter, three weeks before Stenson's trial begins with jury selection.
“It has occurred to me this manuscript may be something you wish to pursue,” Kelly said in the letter.
Then on Wednesday, Kelly said in an email to Kremer that her mother would not turn over the manuscript after agreeing to do so and would not talk with a defense-team investigator being sent to interview her.
In a follow-up email Wednesday, Kelly refused to sign an order requiring Snyder to attend a deposition and to turn over the manuscript.
“No, I won't,” was all Kelly replied.
Kelly refused to discuss the specifics of Kremer's motion.
Snyder could not be reached for comment.
“While defense counsel is sympathetic to the prosecutor's desire to protect her 89-year-old mother from involvement in this case, the prosecutor recognizes that the manuscript is relevant to the defense, as illustrated in her Aug. 27, 2013 letter,” Kremer wrote in his 15-page court filing.
“The prosecutor further recognizes that trial is days away, and that her disclosure of the manuscript at this time puts the defense in an almost impossible position to investigate and analyze the ramifications of this disclosure.
“Prosecutor Kelly's refusal to provide contact information for Sunshine Snyder, while understandable on a personal level, further illustrates that she is not and cannot be impartial.
“Her further refusal to cooperate in obtaining a subpoena from the court underscores this problem,” Kremer said.
“This sudden representation and change of direction by the prosecutor further illustrates what appears to the defendant to be an effort to conceal, or at the very least establishes, partiality.”
Kremer also said he was concerned that Snyder's “active role” with at least one witness creates a scenario in which cross-examination could involve Snyder herself “further compromising the prosecutor's impartiality.”
The reference was not explained in the motion.
Kremer also said he was concerned whether Kelly had access to separate investigative files compiled by Snyder and, if she had, whether it compromised her impartiality, as well as whether Kelly had any “potential pecuniary interest” in the manuscript.
“If Ms. Kelly herself was connected to a book about the trial, she would be disqualified,” Kremer said.
In her Aug. 27 letter to Hunko, Kelly said Hunko was aware that Snyder attended the trial.
“She wrote a book which was never published based upon the knowledge she gained while in attendance at the trial,” Kelly wrote.
Kelly said her mother gave her the manuscript to read in 1995 or 1996.
“I do not remember anything that would be of interest to either prosecution or defense, and am not sure I even finished it, but that was 18 or 19 years ago and at a time when I was unfamiliar with the evidence,” Kelly wrote.
“I know that at one point, she had misplaced [the manuscript], but I believe it is likely still in existence,” she wrote.
“If you are interested in it, please let me know, and I will contact my mother and ask her to attempt to locate it.”
Senior Staff Writer Paul Gottlieb can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5060, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.