Judge rules on first of many legal questions before cold-case trial

EVERETT — A Snohomish County judge on Friday began picking his way through a thicket of thorny legal questions connected to the upcoming trial of a longtime sex offender charged with two 1995 cold-case killings.

Attorneys for Danny Ross Giles, 46, failed to convince Superior Court Judge Bruce Weiss to bar prosecutors from reviewing records created by other lawyers who earlier helped Giles fight a civil lawsuit that sought to have him declared a sexually violent predator.

That case, brought by King County deputy prosecutors, was a thinly disguised gambit to keep Giles behind bars for more than a year while Snohomish County prosecutors built their criminal cases against him, public defender Neal Friedman said.

“It is abundantly clear how close those two teams were working together,” he said.

Giles is charged with two counts of first-degree murder in the killing of Patti Berry, 26, and the disappearance and presumed death of Tracey Brazzel, 22. He’s allegedly linked to the women through genetic evidence found 19 years ago but was not a suspect in either case until DNA testing in 2008.

Giles’ criminal record includes the 1987 rape of a woman attacked while she was using a Lynnwood tanning bed and other crimes against women and girls, starting in his teens.

He was just two days from finishing his latest prison sentence — for flashing his genitals at young women in Seattle — when King County prosecutors in July 2011 obtained court orders to have him locked up indefinitely at the state’s Special Commitment Center on McNeil Island while they pursued a civil case to have him declared a sexually violent predator.

Giles was awaiting trial on that civil case when he was charged in late 2012 with the Snohomish County cold-case killings. King County prosecutors promptly dropped the sex-predator case.

Records reviewed by the defense demonstrate prosecutors in the neighboring counties were working in concert three years ago, and they shouldn’t now be able to benefit by maintaining that the civil and criminal cases were separate efforts, Friedman said. Giles was the client in the civil case and he has not invited the people now trying to convict him of two murders to examine work done by attorneys who were earlier working on his behalf, Friedman said.

Snohomish County deputy prosecutor Craig Matheson told Weiss Friday that prosecutors in both counties had similar interests in Giles but pursued separate cases. He said that emails Friedman found from Matheson discussing the “favor” King County prosecutors had done on Giles were being taken out of context.

Weiss said what happened when the civil case was under way was less important than what has happened since. Giles’ previous attorneys waived attorney-client confidence when they supplied Friedman with the materials they’d gathered, including notes from interviews they conducted with potential witnesses in what is now a criminal case, the judge ruled.

He ordered Friedman to give Matheson the records but restricted whom he can share the material with, at least temporarily.

Lawyers earlier this month arrived at a schedule for arguing the host of legal issues that must be resolved before his trial, which is now scheduled for late September.

The judge has been told to anticipate battles over the admissability of statements Giles allegedly made about the charges against him; how much jurors should be told about the troubled work history of some of the police who worked the case over the years; and whether it is proper for Giles to be tried simultaneously for the Berry and Brazzel cases.

Brazzel’s body has never been found. In court papers, Giles’ lawyers say they do not believe her death can be proved beyond a reasonable doubt.

There are also questions over whether state forensic scientists will be able to provide defense attorneys all the information they need ahead of the September trial date. Another delay might be necessary, Weiss was told Friday.

Giles was living south of Everett in 1995, supporting himself through under-the-counter jobs. He was known to frequent the same pub where Brazzel reportedly was last seen and where Berry often stopped after work, according to court papers.

The statistical probability of a random DNA match to Giles in the Berry case was calculated at 1 in 580 million, and 1 in 56 quadrillion in the Brazzel case, according to court papers.

Scott North: 425-339-3431; north@heraldnet.com.

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