PORT ANGELES – The recent spate of homicides in Clallam County have prompted the prosecutor’s office to request funding to hire two additional personnel.
Prosecutor Mark Nichols told County Commissioners Monday the new hires are necessary to process a caseload that could not have been anticipated.
“So I think it would be important to note that the positions are being requested really based on an unforeseeable increase in workload and it doesn’t just stem from the recent quadruple homicide. It also dates back to the triple homicide that occurred just about the turn of the year at 52 Bear Meadows Road, in the aftermath we had the tragic vehicular homicide involving victim Lou Galgano, and then in the aftermath of that we had the quadruple homicide. Beyond that we still have the the Clint Darrow case that’s processing through the system. And so we’re at a point where we simply lack capacity to be able to simultaneously prosecute these terrible cases involving loss of life on the one hand, and keep pace with all of the regular flow of felony referrals that come into our office. That’s work that has not stopped being referred to the office. And in addition to it were faced with, again, prosecuting what I think is a historically high number of homicides simultaneously.”
All told, Nichols’ office is working on 9 murders with a combined 6 criminal defendants being prosecuted in those cases. That’s compared to a norm of 2-3 murders per year.
Nichols wants to bring in another Deputy Prosecuting Attorney with the Felony Division, and hire a Victim Witness Coordinator, additions he says are necessary to maintain the level of service spelled out in the state constitution and the Crime Victims Bill of Rights.
“We already have a victim-witness Support Division and it’s essentially a division of one, in that I have one employee working in a designated capacity providing victim support, survivor support and witness services. That person is really working primarily in relation to our felony division in the more serious crimes. Separate and distinct from the felony division, we have our District Court division, which has very high volume with respect to prosecution numbers. And we also have a juvenile court division. The rationale for the second victim witness coordinator position is to ensure that we have adequate resource within the office to make sure that crime victims are being afforded their rights. And so it’s an instrumental dynamic position within the office that’s very important to be filled with the right sort of person who delivers service at a very high level.”
Nichols says, based on previous homicide cases, he expects these cases to take around two years to process through the courts.
He’s confident they can fill the new positions as early as next month.