Continuing our new series of late-night followups whenever there’s not “new” news to report at this hour: We have continued to watch the case of the Alki teenager charged with second-degree murder in West Seattle’s third (and we hope final) killing of the year, the shooting in a car at 59th/Admiral on October 13 (as shown in WSB scene photo at right). In our last update on November 1st, we reported to you that a judge had granted the bail-reduction request for the suspect, from $500,000 to $200,000. (We stopped including the suspect’s name in our reports, as explained October 29th, because a key part of his defense is the contention that he was a victim of sexual abuse, molested for years by the man he allegedly shot.) Since that update, there have been several developments:
The most recent development happened this week: The suspect became a legal adult, turning 18 on Christmas Day. Since the last court hearing we covered in person, on October 24th, he also has had a variety of court dates which resulted in postponements and delays, as seems to be par for the course in so many major legal cases. The next date that is currently set is January 9th, for a competency hearing.
Background on that: A court document dated December 5th ordered the suspect to undergo a mental evaluation, because of “reason to doubt the defendant’s fitness to proceed” (toward trial on the second-degree murder charge). His lawyer, Robert Perez, wrote in another document that he “had extreme difficulty obtaining information from (his) client relating to his defense. …” Perez went on to write, “It is my belief that my client is unable to appreciate the nature of his present situation and that as a result of this inability, he is not presently able to cooperate with counsel in preparing a defense.”
Earlier court documents had noted that the suspect had received mental-health counseling less than 2 weeks before the shooting, for problems including depression. After the suspect’s arrest, a youth counselor who saw him in jail wrote, “I was blown away with how naive this young man was. Most of the youth that I meet with are repeat offenders and do not appear to be bothered with their grim situation or their crime. (He) was different than any youth I have encountered. He kept crying and putting his hands in front of his face. He told me that the whole State of Washington was against him and they didn’t even know what happened to him.”
Perez had asked last month that his client be moved into the county’s juvenile facility, contending that he was in danger in the main jail downtown. That motion was denied, though he did get moved in the second half of November to the Regional Justice Center in South King County, which — as we reported in our coverage of the October 24th hearing — has a juvenile wing that Judge Helen Halpert described during those proceedings as “way better than” the main jail.
If next month’s competency hearing results in the suspect being found unable to stand trial at this time, he could be moved into a treatment facility until that changes.
Meantime, we have continued to collect information on the other two West Seattle murder cases that happened this year (March at 37th/Findlay; April at Cal-Mor Circle); the suspects in both of those cases remain in jail, awaiting trial, and we’ll include more details in an upcoming WSB “late-night followup” report.