A judge said Tuesday he is reluctant to delay a murder trial into 2013, but told a Richland nanny's lawyer he'll consider it if their expert can further explain his unavailability for the next six months.
Kelli Anne Jacobsen, 28, signed a waiver pushing her Benton County Superior Court trial back a month to Sept. 17.
However, Scott Johnson reiterated for the court what he's been saying for months -- that his key witness won't be available until the end of the year.
Jacobsen is charged with first-degree manslaughter for the June 22, 2011, death of Ryder Morrison. She is accused of causing a fatal head injury to the boy -- who celebrated his first birthday the day before -- while watching him at his Richland home.
Jacobsen's charge includes aggravating circumstances that the victim was particularly vulnerable and incapable of resistance, and that his death had a destructive and foreseeable impact on others.
Ryder's mother, Tawney Johnson, had gone home for lunch that day and was back at work by noon.
Then at 12:14 p.m., Jacobsen called 911 and told authorities Ryder fell when she was in the kitchen getting him a snack, according to court documents. She ran to the living room and found Ryder on his back.
Emergency room doctors at Kadlec Regional Medical Center in Richland have said the boy's injuries were inconsistent with the nanny's story, documents said. Ryder died in surgery.
Attorney Scott Johnson has been working with an expert in the field of shaken baby syndrome. He first told the court in February that the man couldn't come to Benton County to testify until October because of a backlog of other trials.
Since then, Johnson has said the man's availability has been moved back a couple of months. He has argued that his client deserves a fair trial and the delays are justified given the complexity of the case.
Prosecutor Andy Miller has objected to postponing the trial so long, especially since he had yet to see any report or other information from the expert.
"Setting a trial is a balancing act for both the state and the defense," Judge Vic VanderSchoor said Tuesday. "I'm reluctant to continue out to December or January, but if necessary I will do."
The judge said that he doesn't question if the man is busy, but told Johnson he wants "an indication from the expert of what is filling up his time."
Johnson finished by telling VanderSchoor that he and his client want the trial earlier, but it can't be done. Johnson also previously told the court that Dr. Daniel Selove, the state's forensic pathologist, will be out of the country from early November to the end of the year.
Jacobsen returns to court July 31.
Pasco murder suspect has yet to be evaluated
A Pasco man charged with fatally stabbing his housemate hasn't yet been sent to a state mental health facility, almost three months after his case was put on hold for the evaluation.
Joseph William Hart, 28, remains in the Franklin County jail. Bail is set at $750,000.
His case was set for a hearing Tuesday in Franklin County Superior Court, but lawyer Scott Johnson called the case early and said corrections officers didn't need to bring his client in because nothing was going to happen.
Hart is charged with second-degree murder for the March 6 death of Rodger A. Lincoln.
Lincoln died of multiple stab wounds to his head and torso, caused by a hunting-type knife, according to autopsy results.
Hart and Lincoln, 53, shared a home in the Sundance Mobile Home Park on North Elm Avenue. The mobile home is one of several owned by Lourdes Health Network and is used as housing for people with mental illnesses.
Hart has pleaded innocent to the allegations. However, a stay was entered in the case April 24 when it was decided Hart needed to go to Eastern State Hospital in Medical Lake for a competency evaluation.
Johnson told Judge Craig Matheson that he has talked with Prosecutor Shawn Sant, and the two have learned that Hart is third or fourth on the list of those awaiting evaluations to go to the state facility.
The court scheduled an Aug. 7 status hearing.
Matheson also reminded Johnson that the case has been assigned to Judge Carrie Runge and any substantive issues must be heard by her.