Monthly Archives: November 2010

Followup: Details About Bainbridge Police’s Newest Detector

The bomb scare that shut down Winslow Way near the Bainbridge ferry terminal Monday afternoon was caused by police fears that the suspicious item had tested positive for Nitroglycerin.

And how did Bainbridge police figure that out?

It wasn’t a bomb-sniffing dog, as we’re used to seeing at the area’s ferry terminals. It was a detection made by the “hardened mobile trace detector,” which the department obtained through a grant from the federal Department of Homeland Security. The detector came back positive twice for the presence of both nitroglycerin, an explosive often found in dynamite and triacetone triperoxide, or TATP, which is another explosive.

Bainbridge police is one of the few agencies in the state that have one, Commander Sue Shultz points out, and they’re happy to share it with other local agencies. I found a photo of one at

Shultz said that it could be used in a chemical spill, and it has already been used to detect narcotics. She believes Monday’s scare was the first time it has been used to detect explosives.

LIVE BLOG: Defense Expert’s Testimony in SK Murder Trial

Here’s the case background:

An expert is expected to testify Monday that Daniel J. Mustard was out of his mind when he stabbed to death Ruby Andrews at her South Kitsap home in April 2009.

The trial of Mustard, charged by prosecutors with first-degree murder, began in late September. The case hinges upon the mental state of the defendant, who has pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity.

McNeil Island Prison — Washington’s Alcatraz — To Close


It appears to be the end of the road —or rather a ferry route — for a prison older than Washington state itself.

Indeed, our very own Alcatraz.

McNeil Island Corrections Center, home to about 500 inmates and a place where 245 DOC employees work, is closing after 135 years of protecting the public and punishing and rehabilitating felons.

It’s uncertain what this will mean for the Special Commitment Center, also housed on the island for sexually violent predators and run by the state’s Department of Social and Health Services. But DOC stands to save about $6.3 million a year, according to a press release.

“This will save the most money without compromising the safety of our staff, the offenders and the public,” DOC Secretary Eldon Vail said in the release. “The budget crisis is causing us to make some of the most painful decisions in our agency’s history.”

Here’s what I wrote about McNeil in an entry last year:

The territorial prison there got its first prisoners — two men who’d sold booze to Native Americans and one who’d robbed a fort store — in 1875, according to HistoryLink. When I visited the place last spring, the man who provided escort for me on the ferry ride told me an interesting fact. It wasn’t built for Alcatraz-like security reasons (i.e. its icy cold water surroundings) but rather because that’s just the way everyone commuted back then.

This prison’s older than the state itself, also giving it the unique distinction of being the only prison that started as a territorial facility, which then became a federal pen in 1890, and then a state prison in 1981. It was supposed to be temporary to run it to allieve overcrowding, but now almost 28 years later, it’s still going.

It’s expensive, as you might imagine, to haul inmates — and all the things that go to incarcerate them — on a ferry. That’s the likely reason for its possible closure.

If they do close it, perhaps the state could open it up to tourists — just like Alcatraz — and house a museum there.

Mustard Trial Update: Prosecutors Close to Resting Case

The prosecution of Daniel J. Mustard for the murder of Ruby Andrews continues this week in Kitsap County Superior Court.

Prosecutors are continuing to put witnesses on the stand that back up deputy prosecutor Kevin Kelly’s opening argument: that the killing was an “act of greed and violence,” and Mustard told many others of the brutal homicide and how he’d committed it. That includes people he was with the day of the murder and jail inmates he’d told after he was arrested, as well as several hours of telephone calls being played for jurors.

The case hinges upon Mustard’s mental state at the time of the crime. There is no dispute of the fact that Mustard stabbed Ruby Andrews, 87 to death at her South Kitsap home on April 5, 2009.

Deputy prosecutor Kevin Hull told me Tuesday that the prosecution is close to closing its own case and that could happen as early as Thursday.

On Monday, the defense plans to call Dr. Mark Whitehill to the stand, Hull said. Keep in mind that defense attorney Bryan Hershman bears the burden to prove to jurors that while Mustard committed the act, his mental state was diminished to the point he couldn’t comprehend his actions.

That means that once the defense finishes with its case, prosecutors will be able to rebut the insanity argument — and plans to do so sometime after Thanksgiving with nationally known forensic expert Dr. Park Dietz.

We will keep you posted on the trial’s developments.

LIVE BLOG: Opening Arguments in the Mustard Murder Trial

CASE BACKGROUND: A 19-year-old South Kitsap man goes on trial today for the aggravated murder of 87-year-old Ruby Andrews in April 2009, following almost two weeks of jury selection.

Opening arguments are slated in the case of Daniel James Mustard this morning.

Mustard, 17 at the time of the incident, is accused of stabbing and robbing Andrews in her Colchester home on April 5, 2009. He is being tried as an adult.

The case hinges on Mustard’s mental state at the time of the offense.

Prosecutors are slated to argue that Mustard knew right from wrong when he killed Andrews. But Bryan Hershman, Mustard’s attorney, will attempt to sway jurors that Mustard was either insane or had “diminished capacity” — that he couldn’t fully comprehend his actions — at the time of the killing.

The Kitsap Sun will carry a live blog of the opening arguments when they begin at 10:30 a.m. this morning.

Initiatives Around the Nation Worth Watching

Washington is home to arguably the most policy-changing ballot initiatives this year than any other state. Who else is voting on privatizing labor insurance and liquor, or repealing candy and bottled water taxes while also looking at an income tax?

I wanted to give readers here at the crime and justice blog an idea of some of the initiatives I’ll be watching in other states as the results come in tonight:

Here’s the others around the country I’ll be watching:

Proposition 19 (California): would legalize and tax marijuana, which would open up a wider legal civil war between states and the federal government, which still classifies weed as a Schedule I drug;

California also has two initiatives that simultaneously would a) let an independent commission redraw congressional districts when necessary and b) abolish that same commission from doing its current work (redrawing state legislative districts).

California also has a chance to repeal its requirement that both their own house and senate must pass a budget by a super-majority. Only three states do this.

Finally, in California, there’s an initiative to repeal the legislature and Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger’s so-called cap and trade program to bring California’s carbon emissions to 1990 levels by 2020. The initiative would restrict that law unless unemployment got below 5.5 percent (it’s at 12% right now).

Massachusetts’ question 3 would have that state’s sales tax from 6.25 to 3 percent.

South Dakota referred law 12 would institute a statewide smoking ban like the one Washington pioneered in 2005.

Ballot measure 74 (Ore.) would greatly expand the ability of state’s residents to form dispensaries to sell medical marijuana to qualifying patients, and the state to regulate them.

And finally, there is Oklahoma, with a barrage of initiatives, including: making English the “unifying” language of the state, requiring voters to show their immigration papers, mandating spending a certain percentage of the state budget on education, and, especially of note:

Question 755: banning the use in the courts of Islamic Sharia law– in a state with only 15,000 Muslims.