Seattle lawyer agrees to take on Kennewick murder case

Tri-City HeraldApril 10, 2013 

— A Seattle lawyer has agreed to help on an aggravated murder case in Benton County while prosecutors review whether they will seek the death penalty for Grant W. Scantling.

Attorney Alexandria Sheridan told the judge Wednesday that Michael Iaria accepted the case after being approached by the Benton & Franklin Counties Office of Public Defense.

Iaria is on the state Supreme Court’s short list of “capital-case-qualified” attorneys. The majority of those lawyers practice on the west side of the state.

Sheridan and Scott Johnson, both Kennewick attorneys, already were appointed to represent Scantling.

Scantling, 41, is charged in Benton County Superior Court with aggravated first-degree murder and first-degree burglary.

Prosecutors allege he killed his former fiancee’s roommate after breaking into her Kennewick home March 22. Franklin Palmer, 24, died in the hallway of her home when he was shot several times in the head and the chest.

Ann Marie Krebs saw the shooting from her bedroom. Her ex allegedly pointed a handgun at her forehead and threatened to kill her too, before he ran from the house.

Scantling is the father of two of Krebs’ three children. On the day of the shooting, Krebs had planned to move with the kids to Michigan.

If convicted as charged, Scantling could spend the rest of his life in prison or face a death sentence.

Prosecutor Andy Miller has 30 days to file a death notice to show he intends to seek the death penalty. He can ask for an extension.

Miller has told the court that, at first glance, Scantling’s case does not meet the requirements for a death penalty case in Washington. However, he said he wants to wait until all of the police reports are in before making the decision. Miller might have a better idea of the direction he will take at the next hearing April 24.

Court rules say that an attorney from the “qualified” list must be appointed on an aggravated-murder case while prosecutors are considering the death penalty.

Judge Robert Swisher, who has been assigned to Scantling’s case, noted Wednesday that both the court and Miller are familiar with Iaria.

In Benton County, Iaria most recently represented Phiengchai Sisouvanh. She is serving a life sentence for killing a pregnant Pasco mother and cutting her near-term baby from the womb in 2008.

Like Sisouvanh’s case, Iaria also was hired by the county in 2005 as prosecutors were considering the death penalty for Richard Prather. The Kennewick father was convicted of killing his wife and two young children.

Indigent defense coordinator Eric Hsu said he is in the process of drawing up Iaria’s contract since the lawyer agreed Tuesday afternoon to join the case.

However, Hsu explained to the Herald that Iaria will be serving in an advisory role for the other two defense attorneys while they prepare for the possibility of a death penalty filing. Iaria will not be appearing at hearings at this time, he said.

“If (a death notice) is not filed, and therefore there is no possibility for the death penalty, then (Iaria) will be withdrawing,” Hsu added. The trial is scheduled for May 13. Sheridan told the court it is not a realistic date, but they will reset the trial at a later hearing. Scantling is in the Benton County jail on $1 million bail.

-- Kristin M. Kraemer: 582-1531; kkraemer@tricityherald.com; Twitter: @KristinMKraemer

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