Lawyers: Mass shooting suspect too immature for death penalty

EVERETT — Attorneys for the man charged with the July 30 mass shooting in Mukilteo say evidence suggests he has been living with untreated neurological problems and potential mental illness, and that justice demands more study before prosecutors decide whether to seek his execution.

Preliminary testing also suggests Allen Ivanov, 20, has the brain development of somebody years younger, defense attorney Walter Peale wrote in court papers.

“Age is not the determiner of immaturity; brain development is,” Peale wrote. “Allen Ivanov’s brain development will show he is a ‘juvenile’ to whom the death penalty cannot apply.”

Peale filed the pleadings Thursday in preparation for a Dec. 14 hearing. He wants Snohomish County Superior Court Judge Janice Ellis to extend into January the time prosecutors can be presented information that may help them decide whether to seek the death penalty for Ivanov.

The Mukilteo man 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.

Prosecuting Attorney Mark Roe had given the defense team until Friday to provide him with “mitigation” information to consider before he decides whether to pursue death for Ivanov. Roe had expected to announce his decision by the middle of the month.

In Washington, the only punishment for somebody convicted of aggravated murder is a death sentence or life in prison without the possibility of release.

Although Gov. Jay Inslee has ordered a moratorium on executions, county prosecutors aren’t barred from pursuing the death penalty in aggravated murder cases.

Snohomish County deputy prosecutor Adam Cornell said Thursday that prosecutors plan to file a response to the defense’s motion ahead of the hearing, but he declined to say anything more about the request.

Ivanov was 19 when he allegedly opened fire with a military-style rifle at a house party. Like him, most of the young people there had graduated from Kamiak High School.

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 their relationship. Prior to the gunfire he also wrote a lengthy 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.

Attorneys Peale and Karen Halverson both were appointed to represent Ivanov because of their experience representing people in cases where capital punishment is possible.

In keeping with the state’s death penalty law, one of the first steps for defense attorneys is to present prosecutors with information that may merit leniency.

In court papers, Peale recounted meeting with Roe to seek additional time to present evidence. The prosecutor stood firm on his deadline.

The defense team “has set about to learn as much as possible about who Allen Ivanov is now, who he was on July 30, who he was before the incident and how he got to be who he was on that day,” the attorney wrote.

They’ve traveled to the East Coast to meet with Ivanov’s business partners in a computer game business. They’ve spoken to his family and his friends. Many others who knew Ivanov and the victims do not want to talk with investigators, Peale wrote. The defense also learned that the school district will not allow Ivanov’s former teachers to be interviewed. The defense doesn’t have time to issue subpoenas by Roe’s deadline, Peale wrote.

Peale and Halverson broached the possibility of speaking with the victims’ families but Roe “rejected all suggestions.” He agreed, Peale said, to pass along their findings and expressions of sorrow.

The defense also has arranged for Ivanov to undergo a battery of tests focusing on his neurological development and mental health.

“We are still mining information. Allen’s life story is complex. It is filled with subtle clues,” Peale wrote.

Among other things, they’ve learned that both of Ivanov’s parents are immigrants from the former Soviet Union. His father was from Moscow. His mother lived there, too, as well as in Azerbaijan, before moving to the U.S.

Ivanov had learning problems and displayed “peculiar behaviors” as a child, the lawyer wrote. He described him as an “underachiever” in school, except for math. People have described Ivanov as “consumed with image,” compulsive and controlling.

As a teen he reportedly would “shut down” and make suicidal threats, his family reported. At his mother’s urging he underwent a mental health evaluation in November 2014, but didn’t follow through with suggested therapy. His mental instability was pronounced enough that those around him, including Bui, discussed on social media how best to help, Peale wrote.

Preliminary testing also shows that Ivanov’s brain has not developed “beyond an equivalent age of 18,” the attorney wrote. That’s an issue because the death penalty can’t be sought for juveniles.

The attorney said he knows Roe will give weight to the recommendation of those who lost loved ones in the gunfire.

“The defense does not lose sight of the loss to the families of the victims and survivors. The defense job is more specific and isolated. The defense must focus on Allen,” Peale wrote.

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

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