Category Archives: In the Courts

Reporters notebook: More trials this week

Here’s a few odds and ends for this week in the world of crime and justice.

Old prisons, from famous ones such as Alcatraz to less-known small state facilities, are becoming tourist attractions and drawing a growing number of visitors, operators say.

I wonder if our own McNeil Island will soon become an Alcatraz-like tourist trap.

Live blog: Ostling vs. Bainbridge Island, May 18

CASE BACKGROUND: Did police violate the civil rights of 43-year-old Douglas Ostling when they responded to his home for his 911 call, shot him as he held an axe and then refused to let anyone go into his room as he bled to death?

That’s what eight jurors in Tacoma’s federal U.S. District Court will have to decide.

Ostling’s estate, as well as his parents, William and Joyce, are suing the city of Bainbridge Island and its police chief, Jon Fehlman, along with Officer Jeff Benkert, the man who fired the shot that caused the fatal injury.

On Monday, we heard opening statements.

On Tuesday, we heard from Officer Benkert.

And today, we’re hearing from Officer David Portrey, who was with Benkert at the time. There may be other witnesses, too.

Live blog: Ostling vs. Bainbridge Island, May 15

CASE BACKGROUND: Today, the plaintiffs will call the two police officers, who responded to the Ostling home on Oct. 26, 2010.

Officers Jeff Benkert and David Portrey arrived at the Ostlings’ Springridge Drive home just before 9 p.m. that night. After a confrontation, Benkert fired his duty weapon, hitting 43-year-old Douglas Ostling in the leg.

Ostling ultimately died from the injury.

In opening statements, the Ostling’s attorney said that the 43-year-old’s rights were violated because police did not get a warrant to go check on him, that the shooting was unnecessary and that authorities denied aid to Douglas Ostling before he bled to death.

Live Blog: Ostling vs. Bainbridge Island, May 14

CASE BACKGROUND: Opening statements are expected today in the civil case accusing Bainbridge police officers of violating a 43-year-old mentally ill man’s civil rights when an officer shot and killed him in October 2010.

Lawyers for the estate and parents of Douglas Ostling, shot by police at his Springridge Drive home, are prepared to argue police violated his civil rights by going to his room without a search warrant, shooting him, and then refusing to allow his family to check on him.

The case is before U.S. District Court Judge Ronald Leighton and is expected to last around two weeks.

Ostling suffered from mental illness and called 911 Oct. 26, 2010, making incoherent statements. Details of the encounter are disputed: police said Ostling was armed with an ax. He was shot in the leg and bled to death in his room.

Jury selection has been completed in Judge Leighton’s court. Opening statements will follow at 1:30 p.m.

Interview with juror on Darlene Green trial: ‘It was VERY difficult to convict her’

It’s usually quite fascinating to find out how juries arrive at their conclusions following deliberations.

In the case of State of Washington vs. Darlene Green, jurors convicted Mrs. Green of first-degree manslaughter in the death of her husband, William “Bill” Green, at the couple’s Illahee Road home in June 2010.

We now have a first-hand account of those deliberations (though a tweeting juror did give some brief insights earlier). They come from Megan Tracer, known during the trial as juror No. 11.

She was comfortable answering some questions over email about the trial. Here’s what she wrote:

Q: Did you enjoy being a part of a jury on a trial with such subject matter?

A: Don’t know that I can say I enjoyed it, but it was very interesting. The subject matter was difficult because of what we saw and it was hard because of the attention needed to hear the case without prejudice or bias.

Q: Darlene Green’s attorney Roger Hunko felt this was a “compromise verdict,” that is, the jury didn’t want to convict on murder but was not fully on board with acquittal either. Do you feel that was true, and if so, why?

A: I don’t think it was a compromise verdict. I think that with the information we were given, there wasn’t enough to go with murder 2. In the beginning, there were a few of us that were leaning toward murder, but we could not say there was motive and intent with what information we had to work with. I know there was a lot that was not brought up at trial, and without more information I don’t think we could have gotten to murder.

Q: Did the jury ever vote to ascertain where people stood? And if so, how did it start and change?  

A: Yes. In the beginning we had I believe three people that thought she was guilty of murder 2 and split 6/6 on manslaughter. When we voted again on Friday morning, we only had two that thought guilty of murder and nine guilty of manslaughter. After discussions, we decided there wasn’t enough information to say she had motive for murder and focused on manslaughter. We decided that because of the confession and the evidence that supported the confession and nothing supporting Darlene Green’s testimony, she was guilty of pulling the trigger. We voted 11/1 guilty on manslaughter, then shortly after agreed unanimously on guilty of manslaughter and not guilty of murder.

Q: How did you feel personally about the evidence presented?

A: I personally believe that the evidence supporting the confession was there. Everything lined up with what Darlene Green said she did to all the officers she spoke with on the day of the murder. The defense gave a good theory, but I think it was just that – a theory. You can say that a crime happened a number of ways, but does the evidence show that? For me, I don’t think that it did. It could make sense to some, but there was too many other options to go with that. After Mrs. Green’s testimony, I could not see that the evidence supported what she said happened. She said he was at the end of the foot rest, that he fell on her and rolled off but the body position did not line up with that. Then she said that she didn’t remember, but she did. Then the comments she made about “What is the big deal?” and having a casual conversation about retirement. The evidence from the state I could not find reasonable find doubt in, but the defense I could.

Q: Who had the better case, in your opinion?  

A: I think both could have been better, but would have to go with the state. They proved for me beyond a reasonable doubt that Darlene Green shot her husband on that day and thought because he told her to, it was ok to do. From the pictures and the expert witnesses supporting her confession, they did a good job of presenting the evidence. The defense gave good evidence supporting their theory, but I think there were too many holes showing that something else could have happened, and information left out that should have been talked about. The robe that the defense said had no blood on the upper portion was incorrect. There was blood all over the arms of the robe, so for me that was something that put a lot of questions in their witnesses. Also, the doctor who was given information by Mr. Hunko to support suicide, but said he had no patients who had done so. Mrs. Green’s testimony I don’t think helped them either. With her saying she didn’t remember, but then said she remembered certain things, then the big ball of stars… that didn’t make sense to me. Nothing about her testimony made me think that Mr. Green shot himself or that what she said happened did. I do think that both sides could have done better though.  It seems there was more information about their past that would have been relevant to this trial, but we did not hear that.  Had we known some of the things I have heard since, we may have believed there was a motive for murder. Also, I think that if Mr. Hunko had been more forthcoming with the blood on the robe and given a reason for it being there, we could have had an explanation for it being there other than she shot him. Could have caused more doubt.

Q: How did you feel about (attorney) Roger Hunko?

A: I think that Mr. Hunko has a big heart and that he is very close to this case. I believe that he really did a good job at keeping elements out of the case that would have made it easier to convict of murder and that he brought up some doubt with the void theory, but not reasonable. He seemed a little disorganized and all over the place, but with what he was working with, think he did a good job.

Q: How did you feel about (deputy prosecutor) Kevin “Andy” Anderson?  

A: I believe that Mr. Anderson had a difficult job here. Having to bring forward a case like this, it could not have been easy on him. I think that he was very straightforward and to the point, which almost seemed cold at times, but worked for getting his point across. He did a really good job at presenting the evidence to support the charges and to break down what the defense was presenting also.

Q: How difficult was it to convict an 81-year-old woman? 

A: It was VERY difficult to convict her. We had to put things into a different perspective to not think about her age. What if it had been our father or grandfather? Would we feel differently? What if it was a 30 year old woman? Would we feel different? We also were asked in jury selection if that would be a problem and were told that we had to remember a crime was committed and that we had to know we were there to be a judge of the evidence and not a judge of the law. It is the job of the judge to enforce the law and give her a sentence, not us. We had to remind ourselves of that several times during deliberations. It was brought up by some asking what would happen to her and others reminded us that we could not think about what would happen to her because that was not for us to decide. We could only look at what was presented to us and if she did it or not. I will say though that after the verdict was read and I left the courtroom, I was almost in tears.  It was very hard to look at her in the courtroom and know that she would be going to jail.  I am glad that we left the courtroom before seeing her handcuffed and took off to jail. That was really hard to read in the article later. I can say though it would have been hard if it was a 30 year old too though!!

Out of the Darlene Green trial comes tweeting juror

On Friday, jurors weighing the case of Darlene Marie Green returned with a verdict of guilt on the charge of manslaughter. We had a story, in case you missed it, chronicling the jury’s decision.

As a reporter, I always like to discuss the trial with the jurors who handled it. But in this case, they were out the door before I left the courtroom. (Note: if any would want to discuss their feelings on the case, I’m all ears. Just drop a note to jfarley@kitsapsun.com.)

There was one juror in the case, though, that took to his Twitter account following the verdict. In fact, @adamoffburwell replied to my tweet of “The jury has reached a verdict in the case of Darlene Green,” with “yes we did,” and said he was juror No. 7.

@Adamoffburwell posted several tweets about his experience serving on the jury, including: “I felt the jury did its job in the darlene green case and didnt take the easy road.” I’ll let you see the rest for yourself.

Live Blog: Darlene Green trial, closing arguments

CASE BACKGROUND: Today will be the final day of trial in the case of State of Washington versus Darlene Marine Green.

The 81-year-old Green is charged by Kitsap County prosecutors with second-degree murder. She’s accused of killing her husband, William “Bill” Green, on June 18, 2010 at the couple’s Illahee Road home.

Ms. Green’s attorney, Roger Hunko, asserts Mr. Green killed himself.

We’ll begin shortly with closing arguments.

Live Blog: Darlene Green trial, day 3

CASE BACKGROUND: On Tuesday, Roger Hunko, attorney for Darlene Marie Green, 81, got to start his case: that Green did not kill William “Bill” Green, her husband of 57 years, on June 18, 2010. Hunko contends his death was a suicide.

County prosecutors, who say Ms. Green told everyone she talked to on that day that she’d killed her husband, have charged her with second-degree murder.

Today, Hunko expects to wrap up his own case — which may include the testimony of Ms. Green herself.

We’ll get started at 9 a.m.

Live Blog: Trial of Darlene Green, Day 2

CASE BACKGROUND: Darlene Green, 81, is charged by county prosecutors with shooting her husband, Bill Green, while her attorney asserts Mr. Green shot himself. On Monday, jurors heard opening arguments in the case and several witnesses testifying on behalf of the prosecution.

For the full story, click here.

Today, deputy prosecutor Kevin “Andy” Anderson is expected to wrap up his case and Roger Hunko, Green’s attorney, is expected to begin his own.

Click below to follow the trial live, beginning about 9 a.m. (Kitsap County Superior Court Judge Jay B. Roof has some commitments prior to the trial that may delay the start time a tad, he said Monday afternoon.)

Live Blog: The Trial of Darlene Green, Day 1

CASE BACKGROUND: Opening arguments in the murder trial of an Illahee woman accused of killing her husband in June 2010 are expected this morning in Kitsap County Superior Court. 

Darlene Marie Green is charged by county prosecutors with both second-degree murder and first-degree manslaughter in the shooting death of her husband, William “Bill” Green, at the couple’s Illahee Road home on June 18, 2010.

Kitsap County Sheriff’s deputies say in court documents that Green shot her husband after he provided her a gun and “egged her on” to do so. But in more recent documents filed in the case, Green now asserts her husband shot himself.

We’ll begin the live blog at 9 a.m.