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No change of judge in Scherf case

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By Diana Hefley
Herald Writer
EVERETT -- Snohomish County Superior Court Judge Thomas Wynne won't step down from overseeing the trial of the man accused of killing Monroe corrections officer Jayme Biendl.
The long-time jurist disputed allegations that he is biased against the defendant, Byron Scherf. The judge also denied defense attorneys' claims that he had ruled on issues outside of those he been asked to address during an Aug. 3 hearing.
Wynne issued a written decision Tuesday afternoon and made a record of his ruling at a brief hearing Wednesday.
Wynne advised defense attorneys Karen Halverson and Jon Scott that they can renew their motion with a different judge assigned by presiding Superior Court Judge Ellen Fair.
"Should a different judge independently rule that the defense has met the standard for recusal in this case the undersigned will abide by that decision," Wynne wrote.
Scherf, 53, filed a letter a couple of weeks ago, alleging that Wynne has an "undisputable bias against me, due to my criminal history, my 'three-strike' status and the nature of the alleged charges against me."
Scherf is accused of strangling Biendl on Jan. 29 in the chapel of the Washington State Reformatory. He was serving a life sentence for violent attacks on women. Scherf allegedly told detectives that he ambushed Biendl because of something she said to him earlier in the night.
His lawyers late last month asked Wynne to step down. They pointed to an Aug. 3 hearing when they requested that Wynne order prosecutors to identify which information Snohomish County Prosecuting Attorney Mark Roe considered before deciding to seek the death penalty for Scherf.
Wynne denied the motion, ruling that Roe had substantial documents to consider because Scherf had been locked up most of his adult life. He also pointed out that the defense attorneys still have the chance to provide Roe with additional materials that may make him reconsider seeking the death penalty. Additionally, Wynne spoke about his experience on another death penalty case.
Halverson and Scott claimed that Wynne had offered opinions on issues that he had not been asked to review and they claimed it was inappropriate for him to mention the other death penalty case involving Richard Mathew Clark, who is now serving a life term.
"A judge is required to be unbiased, but is not required to leave all prior experience and views on the application of the law acquired through that experience at the courtroom door," Wynne wrote in his decision.
Meanwhile, lawyers Wednesday hashed out a schedule.
Prosecutors asked for an April trial date. Scott argued that he and Halverson would not be ready by then. Wynne agreed to schedule the trial for Sept. 18, 2012.
Scherf agreed Wednesday to waive his rights to a speedy trial during his lengthiest courtroom exchange with Wynne to date.
Scherf told the judge he was glad that his attorneys were given the time they requested. He said he wanted them to have the time to effectively defend him.
Diana Hefley: 425-339-3463;
Story tags » EverettMonroeHomicidePrison

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