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Pierce County prosecutors try again for rare dual-jury trial

Post by Adam Lynn / The News Tribune on Sep. 2, 2008 at 2:36 pm with No Comments »
September 2, 2008 2:36 pm

For the second time since 2007, prosecutors are asking a judge to hold a dual-jury trial in a Pierce County murder case.

This time, deputy prosecutor Dawn Farina wants two juries to simultaneously hear evidence against Renee Curtiss and her brother, Nicholas Notaro (seen here).

The pair is accused of killing Joseph Tarricone in 1978, cutting up his body with a chain saw and burying his remains behind a house in the Summit area.

Tarricone was pursuing a romantic relationship with Curtiss at the time. Prosecutors contend she’d grown tired of the older man’s advances and solicited her brother to kill him.

Curtiss and Notaro have pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder.

Farina argues in pre-trial motions that the most expedient way to try the pair is by having two juries hear evidence against them at the same time. One of the juries would sit in judgment of Curtiss while the other would weigh the evidence against Notaro.

Curtiss’ jury would be excused from the courtroom when prosecutors introduced evidence that was admissible against Notaro but not her, and vice versa.

You can read Farina’s brief here.

Pierce County prosecutors asked for a dual-jury trial against murder suspects Carol and Daniel Carlson last spring, but a Superior Court judge denied their motion. The mother and son later pleaded guilty for their roles in the death of Daniel’s wife, Lisa Ann Dahm Carlson.

One of my stories on that case follows.

Judge Kitty-Ann van Doorninck is scheduled to hear arguments on Farina’s request in the Tarricone murder in November.

Judge says no dual-jury trial for mother, son

Co-defendants in a murder case must be tried separately by different juries, a Pierce County judge tells prosecutors.

By Adam Lynn

Tuesday,July 24, 2007

Edition: SOUTH SOUND, Section: South Sound & Local, Page B01

A judge has denied a bid by Pierce County prosecutors to hold a rarely used dual-jury trial for a mother and son charged with murder.

Superior Court Judge Frederick Fleming ruled Friday that Daniel and Carol Carlson will be tried on separate dates by separate juries for the 1998 death of Daniel Carlson’s wife, Lisa Ann Dahm Carlson.

Daniel Carlson is to go on trial in March, according to court calendars. His mother is to be tried in July 2008. Both are charged with first-degree murder in Dahm Carlson’s death. They’ve pleaded not guilty.

Prosecutors had hoped to try the Carlsons simultaneously using two juries, a seldom-used practice in Washington.

Deputy prosecutor Mary Robnett argued in court briefs that holding a dual-jury trial – where two juries would sit in the same room at the same time to hear evidence – would expedite the legal process while preserving the Carlsons’ rights to a fair trial.

The pair previously was convicted by a single jury of Dahm Carlson’s murder, but an appeals court overturned the convictions, saying the trial was flawed, in part, because statements the Carlsons gave police were improperly admitted as evidence.

Because neither mother nor son testified during the original trial, neither got to cross-examine the other about incriminating statements they made about each other.

That violated their Sixth Amendment right to confront witnesses, the appeals court ruled.

The dual-jury format would allow prosecutors a way out of that problem while still streamlining the case against the pair, Robnett said in court documents.

The jury hearing Carol Carlson’s case would be excused from the courtroom when evidence not admissible in her case – but fair game against her son – was presented, and vice versa, Robnett said.

The Carlsons’ defense attorneys argued the dual-jury format was fraught with risk and pointed out that nothing in Washington law specifically allows it.

But it has been done in other parts of the country and had been done at least once before in Washington, according to court records and media accounts.

Klickitat County Judge Ted Kolbaba authorized a dual-jury trial in 1993 for co-defendants in a murder case, according to a 1995 story in The Columbian newspaper of Vancouver, Wash.

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