In King County Superior Court this morning, 59th/Admiral shooting suspect Dwayne Myatt-Perez pleaded not guilty to second-degree murder. 11:55 AM ADDENDUM: Here’s our full report on the hearing —
As parents, you can only hope to never see your child standing where the mother of Dwayne Myatt-Perez saw her 17-year-old son stand this morning.
With lawyer Robert Perez (no relation) at his side, he faced King County Superior Court’s chief criminal judge Helen Halpert, to answer the charge he committed second-degree murder by shooting and killing Francisco Bailey-Ortiz in a car at 59th/Admiral in the mid-afternoon sunshine of October 13th (10/13/07 WSB photo at right).
Halpert’s courtroom, E-1201 — Department 31 — is on the 12th floor of the King County Courthouse. This is a floor of power; when you walk out of an elevator on the 12th floor, the King County Council offices are to the right — directly ahead is a door to the balcony where spectators can watch proceedings in King County Council chambers — then, a couple turns to the left, the courtroom.
If you come to watch a hearing, you sit on hard benches of golden wood, with the option to either gaze off to the right through a small window with a view of Qwest Field and the Viaduct, or to look straight ahead through a wall of glass at the hive of activity around Judge Halpert’s bench. She presided this morning over a busy calendar of various motions and decisions regarding crime suspects. By the time court began just after 8:30, the room on her side of the glass bustled with a tightly-packed crowd of defense lawyers, prosecutors, assistants, and court staff.
On the other side of the glass, Myatt-Perez’s mother sat in the front row with a woman who appeared to be working with her son’s lawyer and could be heard explaining some of what was likely to happen in the proceedings. Lawyer Perez came out to the spectator area at one point to explain a delay in Myatt-Perez’s appearance, which was resolved soon enough.
No one appeared to be there on behalf of the family of victim Bailey-Ortiz, unlike a case later that we stayed to listen in on, involving another man accused of second-degree murder, this time for a shooting in Skyway on the 4th of July — after that brief hearing, a man came out and asked for everyone there on behalf of victim Don Dowlen to follow him to the fifth floor; the entire row of people to our right rose and left. The absence of the victim’s relatives in the West Seattle case might (or might not) be explained by a mention during the hearing that most of Bailey-Ortiz’s family is in California.
The actual proceedings involving Myatt-Perez were brief. After the not-guilty plea, much discussion ensued over where he would be held. After he turned himself in the day after the shooting, he was booked into the King County Jail, then moved to juvenile detention after less than an hour; after he was charged last week with murder, he was booked back into the King County Jail, with bail set at $500,000. Lawyer Perez said at this morning’s hearing that he would like to see his client released on his own recognizance or into home detention, but failing that, would like some more appropriate detention arrangements, given his age. Judge Halpert expressed surprise that Myatt-Perez was in the main jail, and noted that perhaps Perez could speak with the “classification” staff regarding moving him to the Regional Justice Center in South King County, where there’s a “juvenile wing” which Halpert described as “way better than here.” The prosecutor didn’t seem to object, but did note that Myatt-Perez is only two months short of turning 18, at which point he would be back in adult custody no matter what.
The two sides agreed that the issue of bail or release would be discussed at a separate hearing in the near future; Perez had apparently just filed extensive new paperwork (not available online at this point) detailing the line of defense, which would figure into their argument for bail reduction or release, and prosecutors had not yet had time to review it.
With that, Myatt-Perez’s hearing was over. As he walked away from the bench, wearing the jail’s trademark brick-red jumpsuit, heading toward the door where defendants who are in custody are brought from and taken back to jail, he turned toward the glass, to look at his mother.
We can’t imagine the pain of being where she was today. Nor can we imagine the pain of losing someone to deadly violence, whatever the circumstances. We will keep watching what happens in this case; we also will be looking soon into the online files regarding the other two killings that happened in West Seattle this year (March at 37th/Findlay and April at Cal-Mor Circle), to see how those cases were resolved.