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Woman charged in fatal Edgewood home-invasion robbery to get separate trial

Post by Adam Lynn / The News Tribune on Jan. 7, 2011 at 5:42 pm with No Comments »
January 7, 2011 5:42 pm

A woman charged in the death of an Edgewood man killed in a home-invasion robbery won the right Friday to be tried separately from her co-defendants.

Pierce County Superior Court Judge Rosanne Buckner’s decision to sever Amanda Knight’s trial means all four co-defendants currently are slated for separate trials.

Clabon Berniard is up first, with a Jan. 31 trial date although his attorney said Friday she needs more time to prepare.

Knight, 22; Berniard, 24; Joshua Reese, 21; and Kiyoshi Higashi, 22; all are charged with murder and other counts for allegedly killing James Sanders in April.

Prosecutors contend the four terrorized Sanders and his family before Higashi shot Sanders, 43, when he fought back. The defendants targeted the family for robbery after Sanders advertised a ring and other items on the online classified advertising site Craigslist, according to court records.

They’ve all pleaded not guilty.

Deputy prosecutors said they plan to ask Buckner to reconsider her decision to hold separate trials and also may ask that some of the defendants be tried before dual juries.

In a dual-jury case, two juries sit in the same courtroom simultaneously to hear evidence against two defendants. One of the juries would decide the fate of one defendant. The other jury would decide the fate of the other defendant.

One of the juries would leave the room when evidence that is admissible against one defendant but not the other is presented at trial.

Pierce County prosecutors contend the practice would preserve the rights of the defendants while also streamlining the legal process by requiring witnesses to have to testify only once. They have sought to seat dual juries in the past, but so far local judges have resisted.

Buckner said she would consider a request at a future hearing.

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