King jury choice starts today

By Jim Haley

Herald Writer

Jury selection begins today for a Mountlake Terrace man accused of killing his mail-order bride, but lawyers are still wrangling over what evidence the jurors will hear.

That became evident Wednesday when a morning hearing on evidence turned into an all-day argument in front of Snohomish County Superior Court Judge George Bowden.

At issue is evidence deputy prosecutor Coleen St. Clair deemed "absolutely critical" in establishing a motive for the defendant, Indle King Jr., 40.

He’s accused of the strangulation death of Anastasia King, 20, who disappeared in September 2000 after returning on the same plane with her husband from her parents’ home in Kyrgyzstan in the former Soviet Union.

Her body was found in late December in a shallow grave near Marysville.

Prosecutors allege he forced convicted sex offender Daniel K. Larson, 21, to help kill her while he held her down. Larson had been a tenant in the King household. He pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and is expected to testify against his former landlord.

But what the jury will hear about Larson, and what letters and e-mails jurors will see, was brought into question Wednesday.

Defense lawyers Cassandra Stamm and David Allen have asked Bowden:

  • To ban the state from using dozens of e-mails and letters King wrote to other prospective mail-order brides both before and after his wife disappeared. They charged that the search warrants in late 2000 didn’t include them as items to be seized as evidence, and the content is prejudicial.

  • To allow the defense to tell the jury about several alleged Larson "bad acts" that were never charged as crimes.

    The judge said he will rule today on the letters and past acts of Larson.

    Complicating the case further, chief criminal deputy prosecutor Jim Townsend Wednesday told the judge that a Mountlake Terrace police officer has taken a statement from a former county jail inmate who said that King may have tried to tamper with a witness.

    Townsend refused to elaborate, and it’s unclear how that might affect the case.

    King already is charged with one witness tampering count for allegedly trying to get a witness to change his testimony. That charge will be tried along with the first-degree murder count.

    In addition, prosecutors recently filed a new charge of criminal solicitation for allegedly trying to hire a jail inmate to silence a witness. That charge will be tried separately.

    The letters seized from the King home in late December and early January 2001 depict King’s displeasure with his first wife, also a mail-order bride who King married before Anastasia King. She left him as soon as she attained status to live and work in this country without him.

    He was angry about the property settlement and financial obligations from his first marriage, according to the letters to numerous young women who were described as prospective mail-order brides.

    Stamm told the judge other witnesses could testify to his displeasure, and there’s no need to introduce some two dozen such letters for juror consideration. They are "extremely prejudicial," she added, and "none of the letters should come in."

    Besides, she argued that the search warrant didn’t cover them. "The number of documents seized from the Indle King home is amazing," she said, and officers were too broad in interpreting what they should take as evidence.

    St. Clair, on the other hand, said officers had an idea what to look for because they had earlier searched Anastasia King’s safe-deposit box, which contained similar letters and information that led authorities to believe she feared for her life.

    She said the letters show a motive to do away with Anastasia King.

    Mountlake Terrace detective Don Duncan testified Wednesday that he took the letters "because I thought they had evidentiary value in this case."

    On Larson, defense lawyers said the jury needs to know about such things as him trying to strangle a brother in 1995 and an alleged rape incident.

    The state said things such as his convictions (failure to register as a sex offender and indecent liberties) should go to the jury, but not other allegations.

    "He’s been doing scary, psychotic stuff since he was age 6," Stamm argued.

    St. Clair responded: "We’re not here to try Daniel Larson for every case that may or may not have happened."

    You can call Herald Writer Jim Haley at 425-339-3447

    or send e-mail to haley@heraldnet.com.

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