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Cousin’s testimony stricken


Cousin’s testimony stricken

Posted: Tuesday, August 27, 2013 6:00 am

By Gina Cole

Judge Susan Cook instructed jurors Monday to disregard earlier testimony from a man believed to be Hana’s biological cousin, to make up for what the judge called “inappropriate” actions by the prosecutor’s office.

Tenssay Kassaye Woldetsadeik testified earlier this month that the girl would have been about 13 when she died, based on his memory and a record of her birth written in a family Bible.

Hana’s age is critical to the case because the homicide-by-abuse charge against adoptive parents Larry and Carri Williams applies only if Hana was younger than 16 when she died. Examinations of the girl’s body by various forensic experts have not been able to definitively place her age on one side of 16.

Prosecutors flew Woldetsadeik in from Ethiopia to testify, but he failed to catch his flight home and his whereabouts remain unknown. This, and the fact he left behind the family Bible, brought into question his motive for taking the stand.

Defense attorneys then learned Prosecutor Rich Weyrich had given Woldetsadeik clothes and shoes after he testified and that someone from the Skagit County Prosecutor’s Office went with Woldetsadeik to Seattle to tour the city.

All this happened after the man testified, and he did not know before taking the stand that he would receive anything afterward, deputy prosecuting attorney Rosemary Kaholokula told the judge. Weyrich has submitted a declaration under oath saying the same.

“This is not a situation where money was provided for testimony,” Kaholokula said, adding she was “kind of appalled” that defense attorneys were “flinging around accusations.” The chaperone on the Seattle trip was intended to keep Woldetsadeik insulated from information about the case, she said.

Cassie Trueblood, an attorney for Larry Williams, cited various rules and laws forbidding attorneys from giving gifts to witnesses, regardless of what the gift was. She asked Cook to dismiss the case against her client because Weyrich’s failure to tell the defense about the gifts violated Williams’ right to a fair trial.

Cook opted for less severe relief.

“I think it was inappropriate, and for that reason, I am striking this testimony,” she said.

2013 Aug 27