Monthly Archives: October 2010

Jury Selection: A Courts Reporter Reflects

I sought the help from fellow journalists in researching a story about social media and its affect on the courts.

I was lucky enough to hear back from John Painter, Jr., a retired Oregonian courts reporter (and, as no one is immune from the process, a seven-time potential juror), who offered me these thoughts on jury selection, the process some lawyers call “pick ’em and stick ’em.”

“In my experience as a juror, during voire dire I was bumped from every case but one (both sides had run out of challenges) solely because as a court reporter I knew too much about trials and the trial tactics of both sides.

In my experience as both juror and journalist, I came to several conclusions:

(1) Jurors being questioned routinely lie about their positions on issues they think could get them bumped;

(2) lawyers on both sides harbor deep-seated prejudices about who would make a good and bad juror and the common rationales for bumping certain types of jurors are mostly without real-world foundation, but “blogging” news web sites is a red flag;

(3) lawyers involved in criminal litigation invariably will disqualify any potential jurors with any link to any media (and in this day and age that includes anything dealing with the web);

(4) no expert worth his/her salt can tell you anything substantive about who would be a good or bad juror; humans are just too complicated.”

2010’s Officer-Involved Shootings on the Kitsap Peninsula

On Tuesday night, Bainbridge Island police shot and killed an ax-wielding man, according to the Kitsap County Sheriff’s Office.

It’s the fifth time this year that police — on duty or off — on the Kitsap Peninsula have resorted to lethal force. Here are the previous incidents:

In February, Suquamish officers opened fire on a man who drove a car at them on Nelson Street. The shooting was justified, according to the Kitsap County Prosecutor’s Office.

In July, a Poulsbo officer on a traffic stop in Silverdale shot and killed a Bremerton man who police said was reaching for a gun. That shooting was also ruled justified by the prosecutor.

In September, an off-duty Washington State trooper at his home in Olalla shot and killed a man who’d hit him in the head with a steel rod. That shooting remains under investigation.

In early October, a Mason County deputy was hit in the leg with gunfire following a chase in Allyn. Though the investigation is not complete, early reports indicate a deputy had fired a shot at the suspect’s car after he’d begun using it as a “deadly weapon,” according to the sheriff’s office.

LIVE BLOG: Wife’s Testimony at PO Murder Trial

Background on the case:

Henry Paul Musgrove III, 31, will face second-degree murder and manslaughter charges in the death of his wife’s daughter, 23-month-old Izabell Davis-Hull.

His wife, Amber Lyn Musgrove, has accepted an offer of immunity from prosecutors, in exchange for her testimony in the case, said Cami Lewis, one of two Kitsap County deputy prosecutors handling the case.

A two-year investigation by Port Orchard Police detectives resulted in the arrest of both Henry and Amber Musgrove. Both were initially charged with crimes related to the toddler’s death, but Amber Musgrove’s charges will be dropped if she completes her agreement to testify, Lewis said.

This morning is Amber Musgrove’s testimony.

LIVE BLOG: Opening Arguments in Port Orchard Murder Trial

Opening arguments in the trial of a former Port Orchard man accused of killing a 23-month-old toddler are slated for this afternoon.

Henry Paul Musgrove III, 31, faces second-degree murder and manslaughter charges in the death of his wife’s daughter, Izabell Davis-Hull.

Musgrove’s wife, Amber Lyn Musgrove, has accepted an offer of immunity from prosecutors, in exchange for her testimony in the case.

The girl died likely from a blow to the abdomen on February 23, 2008. After a lengthy Port Orchard police investigation, county prosecutors charged both the 31-year-old and his wife with her death. But Amber Musgrove’s charges will be dropped if she completes her agreement to testify, according to prosecutors.

The trial is expected to last between two and three weeks; jury selection has already taken a week.

The live blog is slated to begin at 1:30 p.m. in Kitsap County Superior Court.

GOOD TIME: The Math Behind the Problem

I’ve heard from a number of people who’ve been confused about how the Kitsap County jail was miscalculating “good time” for inmates.

I have to admit that it took me a number of times to go over the math and get it right myself. But there is an eventual “light bulb” moment that takes place (I promise).

I got an email from reader Cary Edwards this morning. Cary, too, had the same issues I did when I learned about the error.

“I have read your story, ‘good time – bad math’, three times. I am still unclear on why kitsap county jails math was wrong,” he wrote.

So I wrote back with my best explanation.

“I completely understand how you’re confused by the math. I was too, and had to go over it dozens of times.

So, here’s the best explanation I can give you.

Keep in mind that he’s not done with his sentence. He has more time to serve in a state prison.

If a judge had sentenced him to 120 days, the jail would indeed divide that by three to get his “good time.” That means he’d serve 80 days, with 40 days of good time.

But here’s the deal: he’s already done 120 days.

So he needs to get an additional third to get his credit for time off for good behavior. How is that calculated?

By dividing by half, interestingly. But let’s come back to that in a moment.

Let’s say a judge gave someone an 180 day sentence. And they earned their full 1/3 off for good behavior. Divide 180 by 3, and you get 60. So the person would serve 120 days and be credited for 60 days of good time.

Now, if he’d done 120 days already, and had to go off to DOC prison to do more time, that means he’d get that additional third off (60).

To get to that amount mathematically, you would actually take 120 and divided by two (not three) which would give you 60 days of good time — the correct amount.


I also heard from reader Gerry Warren, who did get the math. In fact, he provides an alternative in calculating it:

“Another way to calculate it is to times it by 1.5

Joe serves 15 days. He is credited for good behavior using the 1/3rd rule

15 is 66.66666% of what number? Answer: 22.5

22.5 X .666666 = 15. 15 times what equals 22.5? Answer 1.5. 22.5 divided by 15 = 1.5

Robert Pierce’s 213 days served: 213 X 1.5 = 319.5

Whatever fraction or percentage you use you can figure out the constant for that fraction or percentage (e.g. 1.5 for 1/3)”

I’d like to hear back from others about how they handled the math. Was it confusing? Did it make sense?

GOOD TIME: The Jail’s Policy and the Supreme Court’s 1993 Decision

To take a look at the Kitsap County jail’s old and updated policies on earned release time, scroll below.

I have also posted the landmark ‘good time’ decision by the Washington Supreme Court that directs how Department of Corrections and the local jails work to calculate good time.

Kitsap County’s old and revised ‘good time’ policies

1993 Supreme Court Decision: In Re: Williams

GOOD TIME: ‘I Just Want It Fixed’

Mail from inmates at county jails and state and federal prisons is common in newsrooms, as those on the inside look to reporters to help with legal battles or civil rights violations.

The same is true here at the Kitsap Sun. We review such mail — honestly, word for word — to see if there’s an injustice being done, however big or small. In many cases, the complaints don’t quite add up. In some, a quick phone call or email to the right person is all that’s needed. But sometimes, an inmate raises a concern that calls on us to tell a story.

In May, I got such a letter. His name was Robert “Doug” Pierce, who you can read about in Sunday’s paper or online here. The Kitsap County jail had miscalculated his time off for good behavior — and he was right.

“I just want it fixed so I can come home to my family after my debt is paid to society in full,” Pierce wrote in his letter.

Pierce’s discovery was not only overlooked at the jail and lawyers in the system but at the Department of Corrections — and it set the stage for a change in policy at the Kitsap County jail.

In doing the story, I wanted to examine all aspects of how good time is awarded. Thus, what you’ll find is an explanation of how it works at all levels — federal, state and each of the 39 county jails — and why it is administered in the first place. That included working with and submitting records requests to each of the state’s 37 jails.

We also stumbled upon another interesting facet: that the state’s sunseting of a 50 percent off provision for good time went virtually unnoticed by anyone outside the system.

For the results of our work, click here.

LIVE BLOG: Sentencing of South Kitsap Manslaughter Suspect

This blog will begin at 9 a.m. Monday morning.

Here’s some background on the case.

Lawsuit: ‘There Were No Signs Posted Advising of the Unsecured Shelf’

Blogger’s Note: This is a continuing feature on the blog that will provide synopses to recently filed Kitsap County lawsuits.

A woman has filed suit in Kitsap County Superior Court against against Ross Stores, Inc. after a December 2008 incident in which she was hit in the neck by an “unsecured shelf.”

The lawsuit, filed in September, states the woman was shopping there and going down an isle on Dec. 13, 2008, when “the shelf gave way causing the shelf to fall and hit her neck and causing pain in her neck and head area,” court documents say.

“There were no signs posted advising of the unsecured shelf,” the documents say.

The woman’s lawyer says she endured “damage, physical pain and suffering, and (sic) well as emotional pain and suffering, and incurred medical expenses all in the amount to be proven at the time of trial.”

Her attorney says they’re suing for negligence and “prays for judgment … as the court deems just and equitable.”