Request wants it no earlier than summer 2016
By Kyle Spurr
By The Daily Astorian
The defense attorneys for Jessica Smith, the mother accused of drugging and murdering her 2-year-old daughter and attempting to kill her 13-year-old daughter in a Cannon Beach hotel last summer, are requesting a trail no earlier than the summer of 2016.
A trial date has initially been set for July 7.
Smith’s defense attorneys William Falls and Lynne Morgan filed a written response this week to the state’s motion for a “date certain” for the trail.
The response claims the possibility of the death penalty requires additional time to prepare Smith’s defense. Smith, 40, of Goldendale, Wash., pleaded not guilty Aug. 12 to aggravated murder and attempted aggravated murder. Smith is accused of drowning her 2-year-old daughter Isabella Smith and cutting the throat of Alana Smith in room 3302 at the Surfsand Resort.
“Defending a capital case is a time-consuming and intensive undertaking,’’ Falls and Morgan wrote. “In addition to a thorough investigation of the fact issues presented by the charged offenses, effective capital defense counsel must conduct a thorough and complete investigation of a client’s background, character, life experiences and mental health to prepare for what are, in essence, two separate trials — one to determine guilt, and one to determine the appropriate penalty.’’
Clatsop County District Attorney Josh Marquis said he plans to file a response to the defense’s response reiterating his request for the trial date to remain set, especially since the case involves a surviving child, Alana Smith.
The dispute over the trial date will come up again at the next scheduled hearing at 2 p.m. Thursday in Clatsop County Circuit Court before Judge Cindee Matyas.
Attached to the defense’s response was a 429-page law journal from Hofstra Law School that argues defense attorneys are allowed more time in cases involving the death penalty.
Marquis said he has not decided if he will pursue the death penalty.
In addition to needing more time for a death penalty case, Falls and Morgan said in their written response, that they are both already scheduled for trial this year in two aggravated murder cases.
Morgan is scheduled to begin jury selection Sept. 15 in the fourth resentencing trial of serial killer Dayton Leroy Rogers in Clackamas County.
Falls is scheduled to begin jury selection Oct. 26 in the trial of Hussein Ali Haidar in Multnomah County, a case with five co-defendants that is expected to take at least six weeks to try.
“We do not request a trial date in the summer of 2016 as a ‘luxury’ or the ‘convenience of the lawyers,’ but rather for the time necessary to provide Ms. Smith with the effective assistance of counsel and a constitutionally adequate defense,” Falls and Morgan wrote in their response.
Smith’s defense attorneys said in the response they do not yet know who they intend to call as witnesses and what other evidence they intend to introduce in trial because they are in the very beginning of preparing this case for trial.
The discovery, or evidence, deadline is Jan. 30.
Marquis has provided almost 3,500 pages of police reports, 34 separate CDs and DVDs and detailed copies of the defendant’s statements to investigators.
Marquis maintains that the trial needs to occur as soon as possible to best accommodate the defendant and the 13-year-old victim Alana Smith, who would prefer a trial date this summer or no later than winter.
The defense’s proposed trial date of 2016 would be more than two years after the incident.
“For a 13-year-old child in which her natural mother is accused of killing her sister and then attempting to cut her throat, delays are nothing short of torture,” Marquis wrote in his motion. “A year’s delay for a 13-year-old child means much more than a similar delay to someone who is 60 years of age.”