Accused Richland man expected to testify in murder case

Kristin M. Kraemer, Tri-City HeraldFebruary 10, 2014 

A 19-year-old Richland man "will likely testify" to jurors about the July 4 shooting of a teen in the desert following an all-night party, his attorney said Monday.

Joshua H. Hunt allegedly killed Joshua Snapp because he was upset about money owed him and believed the 17-year-old victim was going to tell police that he was a drug dealer.

Hunt's trial started Monday in Benton County Superior Court with 90 potential jurors showing up. By the end of the first day, 60 people remained in the jury pool for the first-degree murder case.

It includes the allegation that a firearm was used.

When Judge Carrie Runge read a brief synopsis of the case to the jurors, all packed into a large courtroom, a number of heads quickly turned toward Hunt upon realizing he was there for a murder charge.

Hunt's mother was in court for him.

Prosecutor Andy Miller said Hunt and co-defendant John C.I. Young acted with premeditated intent when they took turns shooting Snapp.

The teens went to a remote area near Horn Rapids sometime between 4 and 5 a.m. on the Fourth of July, intending to smoke weed, according to court documents in the case.

Hunt -- who told Richland detectives he got the revolver in mid-June in a trade involving $100 of pot -- shot the younger teen in the chest and the head before handing the gun to Young, who fired one more bullet into Snapp's head, documents said.

Hunt and Young were picked up later that morning in Benton City after Young told a convenience store employee that someone had just been shot.

Hunt reportedly has acknowledged that he was drunk and high on methamphetamine and marijuana in the hours leading up to Snapp's death. His defense lawyer, Shane Silverthorn of Ellensburg, may argue that his client had a diminished capacity given his drug use.

While potential jurors were filling out a lengthy questionnaire, Runge met with both attorneys and Hunt in a separate courtroom to discuss last-minute defense motions.

Miller said he does intend to show some evidence that Hunt used drugs prior to July 3, saying it was one of the motivations the teen had in killing Snapp. The prosecutor added that he does not plan to introduce Hunt's prior convictions or arrest.

Silverthorn agreed that drugs and drug use are relevant to this case, but said he just wanted to make sure that other alleged criminal misconduct by his client isn't told to the jury.

The defense also asked the court to order prosecutors to reveal at least one day in advance who they intend to call to the witness stand.

"These have not been the easiest witnesses to get a hold of," Miller replied, adding that he suspects his office will be scrambling to ensure enough witnesses for each day of trial.

Runge denied the defense request.

Of the jurors excused Monday, more than a dozen were for hardship reasons, like child care, work conflicts or scheduled medical appointments. One juror was let go because a relative had been a murder victim, another is a Pasco police officer who has handled a number of murder cases and a third is a contract cook in the Benton County jail, who the defense was concerned may have overheard gossip.

And about 10 people noted they know some specific details of the case from media reports and already have formed an opinion about Hunt's guilt.

The court anticipates having a 12-member jury with two alternates seated by this afternoon. If that happens, the trial will be in recess Wednesday and resume Thursday with opening statements and prosecutors' first witnesses.

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

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