Judge scolds lawyers for inmate accused of killing Monroe corrections officer

EVERETT — A Snohomish County judge made clear Friday he wants no delays in a key hearing for the inmate accused of killing a Monroe corrections officer.

Lawyers for Byron Scherf earlier this month missed a court-ordered deadline for filing any legal arguments they plan to raise at the Feb. 13 hearing. On Friday, they also acknowledged they haven’t interviewed all potential witnesses, nor are they certain about whom they may call to testify.

Snohomish County Superior Court Judge Thomas Wynne was not pleased.

He scolded Scherf attorney Jon Scott for failing to earlier alert the court that there may be problems.

“Don’t let that happen in the future,” Wynne said. “Advise the court ahead of time.”

Scherf is charged with aggravated first-degree murder in the Jan. 29, 2011 killing of Jayme Biendl at the Washington State Reformatory, where the repeat rapist was already serving life. Prosecutors plan to seek the death penalty.

Scherf’s February hearing has been scheduled since mid- October. A courtroom has been reserved for three days. Lawyers are scheduled to spend the time slugging it out over whether jurors will be told about videotaped statements Scherf made to detectives, explaining why Biendl was killed.

The court will have to decide whether Scherf knowingly and voluntarily waived his constitutional rights against making incriminating statements.

Friday’s hearing was scheduled at the request of prosecutors, seeking the court’s help in enforcing pre-trial schedules in the case.

The anniversary of Biendl’s killing is Sunday. Trial is scheduled for September.

“The victim’s family is anxious to see this case move forward to trial as currently scheduled, which in their view has already been dragged out for too long,” deputy prosecutor Ed Stemler said in court papers.

Scott, a public defender who is one of two defense attorneys representing Scherf, said his team isn’t solely to blame for delays; that corrections department officials delayed interviews with some witnesses. In court papers, he also accused prosecutors of trying to “incite public sentiment” against Scherf and his lawyers by calling attention to Biendl’s family.

Scherf’s lawyers take seriously their duty in moving the case forward, but “the defense will not be bullied into presenting briefing or disclosing legal theories or arguments before the foundation for these materials is fully formed,” Scott wrote.

Indeed, Karen Halverson, a longtime Everett defense attorney who also is representing Scherf, told Wynne she may ask for next month’s hearing to unfold in stages: first testimony, then a break of several days to consider what witnesses said, then arguments about admissibility statements attributed to Scherf.

Wynne said he has no intention of rescheduling next month’s hearing, nor does he anticipate accommodating a long-running battle over Scherf’s statements.

The judge ordered the defense to tell prosecutors by Monday which witnesses they plan to call, and to file their brief outlining legal arguments by Feb. 8.

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

Coming Sunday

Slain corrections officer Jayme Biendl will be remembered on the first anniversary of her death during two public events Sunday in Monroe.

A memorial run is set to begin at 9 a.m. at Sky River Park, 818 Village Way, Monroe. The route will pass by the front of the Washington State Reformatory where she worked. Event-day registration begins at 7 a.m. for those wanting to walk or run the 5K course. Registration is $35.

A candlelight vigil is set for 8 p.m. at the entrance of the Twin Rivers Unit of the Monroe Correctional Complex, 16774 170th Dr. SE.

At 9 p.m., the state Department of Corrections will have a moment of silence at all its prisons. There will be a notification at the vigil when the moment of silence begins and ends.

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