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Lambert claims insanity defense

Joshua Lambert, accused of two murders, appears in court last month with attorney Peter Simpson. He obtained the court’s permission to dismiss the lawyer and now represents himself.  - Jessie Stensland / Whidbey News-Times
Joshua Lambert, accused of two murders, appears in court last month with attorney Peter Simpson. He obtained the court’s permission to dismiss the lawyer and now represents himself.
— image credit: Jessie Stensland / Whidbey News-Times

The 30-year-old Oak Harbor man accused of murdering both his grandfathers plans to put on an insanity defense.

Joshua Lambert sent the court a letter, dated Nov. 2, notifying officials that he is “filing a motion of insanity.” Lambert is acting as his own attorney, but is apparently having trouble navigating court procedures from his cell in the Island County jail.

Lambert pleaded not guilty in Island County Superior Court Oct. 17 to charges of first-degree murder and first-degree kidnapping. Lambert, soft-spoken and calm, insisted at the hearing that he wants to represent himself, despite Judge Alan Hancock’s repeated warnings about the difficulties and consequences of self-representation.

Lambert was charged with murder in the Oct. 3 death of his paternal grandfather, 80-year-old George Lambert. He was also charged with kidnapping George Lambert’s sister, who lived with her brother at a home outside of Oak Harbor. Lambert is accused of tying her up with packing tape while he searched the home for firearms.

In addition, Lambert was named as a suspect in the murder of his maternal grandfather, 80-year-old August Gene Eisner. Eisner had been living in an apartment next to his daughter’s Hastie Lake home. He was killed outside the house.

Both George Lambert and Eisner were brutally stabbed to death on the same day. Joshua Lambert was arrested in Oak Harbor on the day of the murders. He was covered in blood and had a suspected controlled substance in his pocket, according to the Island County Sheriff’s Office.

Island County Prosecutor Greg Banks said the motive for the murders was that Lambert wanted a gun.

Banks said he will likely charge Lambert in the Eisner murder before the omnibus hearing on Nov. 21.

“The question is what the amended charges will be, not whether there will be amended charges,” Banks said.

In his letter addressed to the “judge or court,” Lambert asked that he be allowed to file a notice of an insanity defense, noting that it is past the 10-day deadline for filing the notice. He wrote that he was unaware of the deadline because he hadn’t received the pertinent “law books” until Nov. 2.

Banks said he also received a copy of Lambert’s letter. He said he likely wouldn’t object if Lambert wants to plead not guilty by reason of insanity.

“The statute does impose a deadline, but it says a judge can allow someone to make the claim at any time,” he said.

Banks said a defendant would normally undergo a psychological evaluation in a case with an insanity defense. He indicated that the burden of proving insanity can be tough.

“He has to prove insanity, we don’t have to disprove it,” he said.

Banks pointed to a court-approved jury instruction as a good explanation of state laws regarding an insanity defense.

“For a defendant to be found not guilty by reason of insanity,” the instruction states, “you must find that, as a result of mental disease or defect, the defendant’s mind was affected to such an extent that the defendant was unable to perceive the nature and quality of the acts with which the defendant is charged or was unable to tell right from wrong with reference to the particular acts with which the defendant is charged.”

Banks said evidence that Lambert allegedly tried to evade authorities or told a witness not to call police could be used to show that he knew his actions were wrong.

When it comes to

Lambert’s defense, Banks said his office made sure Lambert has basic legal materials in his cell. Once Lambert identifies other materials or cases he needs to research, he can make a request to the jail staff and they can go to the law library to retrieve the documents.

Yet it appears that Lambert is having some trouble following sometimes-confusing court rules. He wrote a letter to the court, for example, instead of filing a motion. In response to his letter to the court, Island County Court Administrator Brooke Powell wrote that the court cannot take any action on any request in his letter unless it is “formally noted for hearing with a note for the motion calendar, a motion for relief requested, and a declaration based on personal knowledge supporting the motion.”

Lambert then wrote to the county clerk, asking for the forms to writing motions. The clerk responded with a letter explaining that the office has forms for declarations, but not motions.

Banks said he expects the Nov. 21 omnibus hearing may be continued.

 

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