By Sharyn L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter
CHEHALIS – A Lewis County Superior Court judge today denied the prosecution’s request to consolidate two defendants’ cases from last summer’s triple slaying into one trial, saying in part, he didn’t want to give John Allen Booth Jr. grounds for a successful appeal.
Booth, 31, is scheduled for trial the week of May 16.
Lewis County Chief Criminal Deputy Prosecutor Brad Meagher suggested the judge could find that judicial economy was more important than Booth’s right to a speedy trial, and postpone it until October when 29-year-old Ryan J. McCarthy is set to be tried in the same deaths.
“One judge, one courtroom, one jury, which is a big deal in this case,” Meagher said.
Meagher said the trial is expected to last a minimum of two weeks and they have the same witnesses, same evidence and same crimes.
Defense attorney James Dixon opposed the move.
His client extended his right to a speedy trial once already, to prepare a response when the state was potentially going to seek the death penalty, he said.
“Both of these defendants have been in jail for months and months and months,” Dixon said. “And they’ve not been joined as co-defendants.”
The hearing in the Chehalis courtroom this afternoon was well-attended; among those in the audience were the brother of one of the victims, McCarthy’s wife, Booth’s fiancee, elected Prosecutor Jonathan Meyer and all the sheriff’s detectives.
Authorities have said they believe the two men’s Aug. 21 visit to the house on Wings Way off Gore Road was related to a drug debt collection.
McCarthy’s lawyer opposed the prosecution’s request as well. McCarthy’s trial is set for the week of Oct. 10.
Attorney Rick Cordes indicated his reasons for not wanting to move up that date.
“I’m surprised the state says they’re ready to go,” Cordes said.
Cordes said he is still waiting for reports from prosecutors involving DNA, fingerprints and ballistics.
“I’m not ready to go to trial without all that information,” Cordes said.
Judge Richard Brosey asked Cordes if he also didn’t want his client tried with Booth, because it might be confusing to a jury hearing evidence pertaining to both men when the two are not charged with identical crimes.
The men are charged with murder and extortion in connection with the shooting deaths of David West Sr. 52, his son David J. West Jr., 16, and Tony E. Williams, 50, of Randle, at the West’s home in the Salkum-Onalaska area. Booth is also charged with the attempted murder of 51-year-old Denise Salts who lived there.
However, Booth is charged with aggravated first-degree murder in the deaths of West Jr. and Williams as well as unlawful possession of a firearm
McCarthy is charged with first-degree felony murder in the three deaths.
Brosey said he was concerned about what an appeals court might think of postponing Booth’s trial, concerned about confusion to a jury, and possible prejudice to McCarthy.
“I’m denying the motion,” he said.
Read most recent previous story on the case, here
Read background on the case:
• “West Sr. pointed shotgun telling pair of ex-cons to leave his house, triggering triple homicide, unsealed court documents allege” from Saturday Sept. 4, 2010 here
• “Unsealed document: More details on Salkum slayings” from Monday Sept. 6, 2010 here