A new trial for accused murderer Christopher Strawn has been postponed until October, after a mistrial was declared Feb. 14, in the middle of the prosecution’s case against him.
Strawn, 33, faces charges of first-degree and second-degree murder, manslaughter, criminally negligent homicide, third-degree assault and weapons misconduct in the shooting death of Brandon Cook in October 2015.
When Judge Philip Pallenberg declared the mistrial in Juneau Superior Court, he tentatively set the new trial date for April 3.
But Pallenberg set a hearing to reschedule that on Tuesday, in part due to conflicts with a number of upcoming trials. Those include a seven-defendant trial for the defendants in a prison riot on April 17, a June 12 trial on assault and burglary charges for former high school football star Joshua Lehauli, and the murder trial of Mark De Simone, currently scheduled for May 15.
Defense attorney Eve Soutiere has filed a motion to dismiss that, she said, includes a claim of double jeopardy, a provision that no person shall be twice put in jeopardy for the same offense; she is requesting an evidentiary hearing on that motion. She added that she might also file a motion for a change of venue for the new trial, which she estimated would last three weeks.
Pallenberg noted that moving the venue would delay the trial even longer.
“I was put in a very, very difficult position during this trial,” Soutiere said. “We need to make sure all our ducks are in a row so this goes when it is supposed to.”
Soutiere said she needed time to conduct more investigation and make sure all of her witnesses would be available, and told Pallenberg her client would “reluctantly” waive his right to have a speedy trial.
“I’m aware he’s in custody and this is no small matter to him,” Pallenberg said. “There aren’t any great choices here.”
Pallenberg set the trial to start with jury selection on Oct. 2, with a pre-trial conference set for Sept. 22.
Strawn’s first trial ended abruptly after Strawn’s ex-girlfriend made an inadmissible allegation on the stand about domestic violence, leading Soutiere to shot to her feet with a strenuous objection and a request for a mistrial.
Paige disagreed, unsuccessfully arguing that the statement was so brief it could be corrected with an instruction to the jury.
Pallenberg noted that he had relied on the state to gauge whether or not she was going to abide by the restrictions on her testimony. The judge referred to the woman’s demeanor as “terrified,” saying that he suspected the jury would not be able to block that from their minds even if he instructed them to disregard what she said.