His Witness Lied But Prosecutor Didn't Reveal It -- Same Deputy Da Is Now A Judge
A former King County deputy prosecutor who is now a substitute judge never revealed that a witness in a shooting case 6 1/2 years ago gave a false name and was wanted for a parole violation, according to court records and interviews.
And although charges were ultimately dismissed, the accused shooter, Laughn Doescher, says the muddled ending of the case is partly responsible for the fact that he lost custody and visiting rights with his daughter.
Doescher said he may never have been charged, or would have been acquitted by a jury, had the truth been told.
King County recently paid him $25,000 to settle a lawsuit over the conduct of the deputy prosecutor, Jonathan Love.
Court records show Love acknowledged that he knew the true name and criminal history of the witness - Stacy Hess - before the trial. But Love was never disciplined by his boss, King County Prosecutor Norm Maleng, or the Washington State Bar Association.
In a recent interview with The News Tribune of Tacoma, Love said the bar association cleared him of any misconduct and he thinks the whole matter should be dropped.
The case started on June 7, 1988. Doescher was at his home south of Seattle when his estranged wife and her boyfriend, Stacy Hess, arrived. Doescher maintains Hess kicked in the front door, so he shot him in the leg. Hess says the shooting was unprovoked.
Police arrested Doescher. When they questioned the shooting victim, he gave the name of Kerry Hess - his brother.
Before trial, Stacy Hess told Love his true name. He said he lied because he had an arrest warrant out for him for violating parole from a 1977 felony conviction. Love disclosed that conversation in an affidavit found in Superior Court records, The News Tribune reported.
Stacy Hess testified against Doescher in December 1988 using the name Kerry Hess.
Love never told Judge Michael J. Fox, Doescher or Doescher's attorney, Richard Tassano, of Hess' true identity, as he is legally required to do, they all said recently.
Tassano said he would have used that information and Hess' arrest warrant to question Hess' credibility in front of the jury.
Even so, the jurors voted 11-1 to acquit Doescher. The judge declared a mistrial and the prosecutor's office decided not to retry the case. Doescher was set free after spending 2 1/2 months in jail.
Love has given different accounts of what happened. In 1990, he told the bar association by letter that the name Stacy Hess was an alias used by the shooting victim. But in 1992, Love wrote in a court affidavit that he knew Stacy Hess was the shooting victim's "real name" before trial.
In a recent interview, Love told The News Tribune he expected Stacy Hess to use his real name at trial. When the witness used the name Kerry Hess, Love said he didn't notice.
"I didn't even hear it, man, to be honest with you," Love said.
And besides, Love said, it really didn't make a difference.
"It was the same guy I interviewed, the same guy who got shot. He just gave a different name."
Love left the prosecutor's office Sept. 20 in good standing and was hired as a substitute judge in King County Superior Court.
Doescher learned of Hess' true identity in 1989. He filed a lawsuit against the county and Maleng in 1992.
Love was dropped from the suit last October by the state Court of Appeals, which ruled he is protected from being sued by a doctrine known as prosecutorial immunity.
On Jan. 23, King County agreed to pay Doescher $25,000 to drop his lawsuit. Doescher said he agreed to settle because he probably wouldn't win his appeal to the state Supreme Court, and the case against Maleng would have been difficult.
He said the money will let him reopen his child's custody case.
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