Judge rules Scantling murder trial to move forward

Kristin M. Kraemer, Tri-City HeraldSeptember 3, 2013 

A judge decided Tuesday that Grant Scantling's murder trial will move forward even though there's new evidence that he may have discussed trying to stop his children from testifying.

As 85 people waited in a Benton County Superior Court jury room for orientation, Scantling's lawyers argued in a courtroom that it was only fair to delay the trial so they could investigate the information, which also includes two alleged jailhouse snitches.

"I'm not being critical of the state here. They get the information as they get it," Scott Johnson said.

He suggested that if the court didn't want to give the defense more time since it was the first day of an anticipated three-week trial, that prosecutors be told they can't use the informant letters and recorded calls from the jail.

Judge Swisher didn't want to postpone the proceedings since a large group of potential jurors already reported to the Kennewick courthouse Tuesday morning.

He said the evidence is allowed in trial, but added that Prosecutor Andy Miller and Deputy Prosecutor Julie Long can't introduce it through testimony until the end of their case in a couple of weeks. That should give a defense investigator enough time to look into the allegations.

Scantling, 42, is charged with aggravated first-degree murder and first-degree burglary.

He allegedly killed Franklin Palmer the morning of March 22 because the 24-year-old had been in a relationship with Scantling's former fiancee since two weeks after their November separation.

Scantling forced his way into the East Eighth Place home and, after shooting Palmer several times in the head and the chest, pointed the handgun at ex Ann Marie Krebs' forehead and threatened to kill her, prosecutors say.

Scantling has two kids with Krebs from their six-year relationship. She reportedly planned to move with her kids, including an older son, to Michigan on the day of the fatal shooting.

Scantling was arrested about 10 hours later in Spokane.

Jury selection will continue today, with lawyers scheduled to talk to people about their knowledge of the case or any issues they may have with sitting on the trial.

Swisher excused 21 people from the jury pool Tuesday for reasons that ranged from scheduled vacation time and medical complications to financial hardships if they miss work.

The lawyers still have 64 jurors to work through as they try to seat a 12-person jury with alternates.

Johnson told the court Tuesday afternoon that he and co-counsel Alexandria Sheridan had hired a private investigator to review the new evidence.

Johnson earlier said that the defense got an email Monday from prosecutors informing them of some jail phone calls made by Scantling.

Another email was sent to the defense later Monday about two letters from two different inmates who reportedly were feeling bad and were driven by their conscience to come forward about alleged conversations they had with Scantling.

Johnson said he and Sheridan were tied up on other trial prep over the holiday weekend and didn't have time to get sidetracked with the last-minute information.

Miller, who got word of the possible evidence Friday, said they may only use one of the inmates who claims that Scantling admitted his role in the crime. He argued that prosecutors couldn't tell the defense until Kennewick detectives had time to get recorded statements from the witnesses.

The phone calls reportedly were made by Scantling to his mother, who's on the witness list. Prosecutors said in one call that there was an initial discussion of not having his little ones testify and in another he gave a cryptic message with orders for Krebs to contact someone else.

Miller said it's serious because it could show attempts at witness tampering by Scantling, and said the state is strongly looking at using the evidence for impeachment purposes.

Miller also said the defendant couldn't claim he didn't have notice of the statements "because he's the one who made them."

Scantling shook his head at that comment in court.

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

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