EVERETT — Snohomish County’s elected prosecutor can stick to his own schedule in deciding whether to seek execution for the man charged with the July 30 mass shootings in Mukilteo, a judge ruled Wednesday.
The law is clear that it is solely up to Prosecuting Attorney Mark Roe to decide whether it is appropriate to pursue capital punishment in an aggravated murder case, Snohomish County Superior Court Judge Janice Ellis found.
She rejected a bid by attorneys for Allen Ivanov to postpone into 2017 the deadline for Roe to make his decision — a move they argued was necessary to present more evidence regarding Ivanov’s brain development.
In court papers, Roe said he already has sufficient information to make a decision.
After Ellis’ ruling, the prosecutor said he plans to stick with his schedule. That means Roe intends to share his decision first with the families of those killed in the shootings and then make a public announcement Tuesday.
Attorneys for Ivanov, 20, filed court papers suggesting the Mukilteo man has been living with untreated neurological problems and possibly mental illness. They also say preliminary testing suggests his brain development is consistent with somebody years younger.
They noted that the death penalty is not an option for juveniles whose brains and ability to reason still are developing. They suggested an analogous situation may exist for Ivanov, too.
Defense attorney Walter Peale on Wednesday told Ellis that more testing and investigation is necessary to fully understand his client.
Among other things, Peale said there is reason to believe the suspected delayed development of Ivanov’s brain impacts his ability to show remorse. There are implications for providing his client with an appropriate defense, the lawyer said. That’s because there are reasons to wonder if Ivanov has the “emotional and intellectual maturity” to fully consider the implications of his legal peril, including weighing the consequences of pleading guilty to avoid risking a death sentence.
Without more study, the prosecution can’t fully understand Ivanov, Peale argued.
“They are blind. They don’t know who Mr. Ivanov is,” he said.
Deputy prosecutor Seth Fine told the judge the law is clear: The decision on whether to seek a death sentence is reserved for the county prosecutor. Moreover, if Roe opted to seek death for Ivanov, there is nothing that would preclude the prosecutor from later changing his mind should new information emerge.
The state’s aggravated murder statute gives prosecutors a deadline for announcing a death penalty decision to give all parties, including the court, time to adequately prepare, Fine said.
None of the attorneys mentioned that prior to becoming a judge, Ellis served as the county’s elected prosecutor from 2003 to 2009 and wrestled with the same sorts of questions now facing Roe and Ivanov’s lawyers.
Ivanov is charged with aggravated murder in the killings of Anna Bui, Jacob Long and Jordan Ebner, all 19. He’s also accused of trying to murder Will Kramer, who was shot in the back, and allegedly shooting at two other young men as they ran for cover.
Ivanov was 19 when he allegedly opened fire with a military-style rifle at a house party. Bui was Ivanov’s former girlfriend.
He reportedly told detectives that he killed her and her friends because he was upset over the end of the relationship.
Prior to the gunfire, Ivanov wrote a letter explaining his motivation and insisting there is nothing wrong with him or the way he thinks.
“I’m selfish. That’s why I did this,” Ivanov wrote.
Roe on Tuesday also is scheduled to announce whether he plans to seek death for John Reed, 53, who is charged with aggravated murder for the April 11 deaths of Patrick Shunn and Monique Patenaude. The couple were found buried in a makeshift grave several miles from their Oso home.
In Washington, the only punishments available for somebody convicted of aggravated murder is a death sentence or life in prison without the possibility of release.
Though Gov. Jay Inslee has ordered a moratorium on executions, prosecutors aren’t barred from pursuing the death penalty.
Scott North: 425-339-3431; email@example.com. Twitter: @snorthnews.