Judge says jury will hear Scherf’s statements

EVERETT — A judge cleared the way Tuesday for prosecutors to turn an inmate’s own words against him next year in his death-penalty trial over the killing of a Monroe corrections officer.

Snohomish County Superior Court Judge George Appel ruled jurors can be shown video-recorded statements of Byron Scherf taking with detectives a few days after the Jan. 29, 2011 killing of Jayme Biendl.

The judge said he was convinced Scherf had been provided adequate access to attorneys and understood the rights he was waiving when he answered detectives’ questions.

Biendl, 34, was strangled while working at her post in the Washington State Reformatory chapel. Scherf was discovered sitting outside the sanctuary. Two hours passed before Biendl’s body was found inside.

By then, Scherf already was locked down at the prison, under investigation for what officers initially thought was a bungled escape attempt.

He asked to speak with a lawyer. That happened the next morning, but Scherf’s attorneys argued that the delay violated Scherf’s rights. They said Scherf’s access to legal counsel was further compromised once he was moved from the prison and kept in isolation at the Snohomish County Jail.

Appel said testimony at a multi-day hearing this spring demonstrated that Scherf met with attorneys and knew how to reach them.

The law requires defendants to be provided swift access to legal counsel, but “as soon as feasible does not mean right now,” Appel said.

The judge late last month ruled that Scherf was not coerced into speaking to police, and that he did so despite being repeatedly advised of his rights.

The judge had left undecided until Tuesday whether detectives, jail staff and prosecutors erred in not immediately getting word to defense attorneys that Scherf had requested to meet with a lawyer or one of their investigators.

Appel said that questioning stopped when Scherf initially requested an attorney and didn’t resume until after Scherf decided to disregard their advice.

A repeat rapist, Scherf already was serving a sentence of life without release when Biendl was killed. Prosecutors intend to seek a death sentence at his trial, now scheduled for March 2013.

The months ahead promise more legal wrangling. On Tuesday, the judge scheduled hearings in July, September, October and February. Scherf’s attorneys said they intend to file a motion questioning the constitutionality of Washington’s death penalty law.

They also plan to try to keep jurors from learning the contents of Scherf’s medical records and plan to raise legal questions about the affect news coverage of the case may have had on Scherf’s ability to get a fair trial.

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

More in Local News

Fatal car crash reported on Highway 92 near Lake Stevens

The 3 p.m. accident and investigation stopped traffic in both directions near Machias Road.

Mayor tries new tactic to curb fire department overtime

Stephanson says an engine won’t go into service when the only available staff would be on overtime.

Cheering families welcome Kidd, Shoup after 6 months at sea

“I get back Daddy back today,” said one homemade sign at Naval Station Everett.

Paine Field fire chief will be allowed to retire

In his letter, the airport director noted Jeff Bohnet was leaving while under investigation.

Stanwood man, 33, killed in crash near Marysville

Speed may have been a factor, the sheriff’s department said.

County plans to sue to recoup costs from ballot drop-box law

A quarter-million dollars could be spent adding 19 ballot boxes in rural areas.

Firefighters come to the rescue and give mom new stroller

Donations to the Good Neighbor Program covered the $143.20 cost.

County frees up $1.6M for Everett’s low-barrier housing

The plan appears on track for the City Council to transfer land ahead of next month’s groundbreaking.

Jamie Copeland is a senior at Cedar Park Christian Schools’ Mountlake Terrace campus. She is a basketball player, ASB president, cheerleader and, of course, a Lion. (Dan Bates / The Herald)
Cedar Park Christian senior stepping up to new challenges

Jamie Copeland’s academics include STEM studies, leadership, ASB activities, honor society.

Most Read