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Friday, October 10, 1997 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Goldmark Slayer To Get New Trial -- District Judge Tanner Throws Out Conviction Of David Lewis Rice

Seattle Times Staff Reporter

TACOMA - U.S. District Judge Jack Tanner today ordered a new trial for David Lewis Rice, convicted in the brutal slayings of a Seattle attorney, his wife and their two young sons on Christmas Eve 12 years ago.

Tanner said Rice did not have effective assistance of counsel in either phase of his trial in the Goldmark family murders: first, while jurors were deciding whether he was guilty, and second, while they weighed his sentence.

Rice, bearded and wearing thick glass, showed little emotion at Tanner's decision. His attorneys shook his hand as he was led from the courtroom by federal marshals.

State attorneys were expected to appeal to the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.

"We're obviously really disappointed and and pretty surprised," said Tom Young, an assistant state attorney general. "I think it's real easy to say today that an attorney should have done things differently . . . but there never was a dispute that he committed very brutal crimes."

Anthony Savage, who joined the defense team during Rice's murder trial, said today, "I'm very happy for David. I think any time you save a life, it's terrific."

Rice, 38, was originally sentenced to die for the killings of Charles and Annie Goldmark and their sons, Colin, 10, and Derek, 12.

Tanner earlier overturned Rice's death sentence, on the grounds Rice was not in the courtroom when it was read. That action was reversed by the circuit court after state attorneys said Rice was absent because he had made himself sick.

In a hearing in Tacoma this week, Rice's current attorneys argued that his first lawyer, Bill Lanning, was incompetent in defending Rice. They said Lanning allowed police to question Rice without an attorney present, and that Rice confessed to the crimes.

Though Rice spoke willingly to detectives at the time, a good defense attorney might have objected to a confession being taken or used in the trial, his lawyers argued. Rice told police he used a toy gun to gain entry to the family's Madrona home, believing Goldmark was a communist and a Jew.

Bob Mahler, one of Rice's current lawyers, said, "From the very first moment police selected David Rice's attorney, things started to go downhill."

Lanning, who has since died, was not physically up to trying a capital-punishment case and even required a special hearing device in court to follow the proceedings, Rice's attorneys argued.

They also questioned whether the King County prosecutors who tried the case - William Downing and Robert Lasnik - withheld a psychological report diagnosing Rice with paranoid delusional disorder. They argued that information might have convinced the trial jury that Rice should have been found not guilty by reason of insanity.

But Tanner ruled that Lasnik and Downing, now both King County Superior Court judges, did nothing wrong. Tanner pinned the absence of key information regarding Rice's mental health on Lanning's incompetence.

"I can't find anything from what I've heard that the state has done anything improper," the judge said. "If you call it taking advantage of weakness in the (defense) case because of Mr. Lanning's performance, why not?"

The Goldmarks were found in an upstairs bedroom of their home by family friends arriving for a Christmas celebration. The wrists of the two adults were handcuffed behind their backs, and the boys had sweaters tied tightly around their necks. All four had been severely beaten on the head and upper body.

Annie Goldmark, who was also stabbed in the chest, died at the scene. Within five weeks, her husband and sons also died.

"It was an unbelievable crime, unbelievable madness, so atrocious that it couldn't be much worse," said one distraught friend.

On Madrona Drive and Lake Washington Boulevard, a plaque has been installed in memory of the Goldmarks. Neighbors said it still triggers memories of what happened 12 years ago.

"They should have never taken him off of death row," said a neighbor who lives within blocks of where the Goldmark family lived. "It was premeditated. I remember the case very well."

"It's not something you dwell on," said another neighbor, Herb Welsh, who had recently heard something was afoot in the courts regarding Rice.

That something had happened didn't surprise him. "It surprises me though that we waste tax money on this.'

Welsh and his wife were friends of the Goldmarks and keep in touch with relatives of the family.

Seattle Times staff reporters Jack Broom, Charles Brown, Florangela Davila, Susan Gilmore and Richard Seven contributed to this report.

Copyright (c) 1997 Seattle Times Company, All Rights Reserved.

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