Missed Deadline Means No Death Penalty In Killing
The state Supreme Court unanimously ruled today that King County prosecutors can't seek the death penalty against a Central Area man accused of killing a Suquamish couple last year because the county missed a filing deadline.
The ruling, the first of its kind in the state, means that if Solomon Dearbone, 23, is convicted of two counts of aggravated first-degree murder, he automatically will be sentenced to life in prison.
Defense attorney Neil Fox, who argued on Dearbone's behalf before the high court, said he expects to win the case at trial, too.
Prosecutors were required to serve notice of their intent to seek the death penalty to defense attorneys within a certain number of days after Dearbone's arraignment but missed the deadline last Nov. 12.
Senior Deputy Prosecutor Craig Peterson informed the defense in person the same day he filed the notice with the court, which was on time, but did not actually serve them with the paperwork as required.
Superior Court Judge Jim Bates allowed prosecutors to serve defense attorneys at a later date, saying they had already been informed.
However, the Supreme Court found that in the absence of extreme circumstances, the legal requirements have to be met.
Dearbone is accused of killing Monica Abat and Ryker Johnson when the couple drove into the Central Area Sept. 3. 1993, with their small children to buy drugs.
Dearbone is also charged with first-degree attempted murder after allegedly trying to shoot the couple's 3-year-old daughter, who was sitting in the back seat. Prosecutors say he aimed his handgun at the girl and pulled the trigger, but the gun was empty.
Charges allege Dearbone took the couple's 1-year-old son from the car and flung him onto the street.
Maleng sought the death penalty, calling the attacks completely unprovoked.
Peterson said he is disappointed by the ruling because he doesn't believe Dearbone's case was harmed by the misstep, but that prosecutors will proceed toward trial.
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