News

Accused Oak Harbor killer to wear restraints at trial

Accused killer Joshua Lambert appears in court June 13 to discuss trial security. - Jessie Stensland / Whidbey News-Times
Accused killer Joshua Lambert appears in court June 13 to discuss trial security.
— image credit: Jessie Stensland / Whidbey News-Times

Island County Superior Court Judge Vickie Churchill ruled Thursday that accused killer Joshua Lambert is unpredictable and a threat to others.

Churchill ordered security measures even beyond what was recommended by the jail administrator.

Lambert, 31, is accused of killing both of his 80-year-old grandfathers and kidnapping his great aunt. The alleged crimes occurred at two North Whidbey homes on Oct. 3, 2011.

Lambert argues that he’s not guilty by reason of insanity and is acting as his own attorney, which complicates security for the trial. Normally, lawyers are able to approach witnesses, the prosecution, the judge and jury during a trial.

On one hand, the judge is obligated to ensure Lambert has a fair trial. The state Supreme Court ruled that physical restraints on a defendant are inherently prejudicial to a jury, Prosecutor Greg Banks wrote in a motion for courtroom safety protocols.

On the other hand, the high court acknowledges that physical restrains may be necessary in exceptional circumstances.

Banks said restraints should only be used as a “last resort” and that every precaution should be taken to prevent the jury from seeing the restraints.

De Dennis, the jail administrator, testified that Lambert poses a substantial threat to others at trial. He said Lambert wrote in court papers that the “voices” were telling him to attack his mother and guards.

Lambert has a long history of violence, the motion states.

Dennis discussed the options for courtroom security. He said there’s a range of options for restraints, from shackles to a leash-like device.

He suggested a “leg brace” would be the least visible alternative while being effective. The brace is a metal frame that a defendant wears under clothing; it locks if he makes any quick movement.

Dennis also recommended that three officers and a bailiff be present to provide security.

Lambert focused on drugs. He argued that he is schizophrenic and should be given anti-psychotic medication, which would be a security measure because it would make him less likely to attack people.

Lambert presented witnesses who testified about his alleged mental illness. His investigator testified that he received a letter from a prison guard in Alaska; the guard claimed to have heard Lambert holding court in his jail cell for about four hours, playing all the parts himself.

The guard wrote that Lambert targeted and attacked “Chesters” or child molesters in prison.

Lambert said a doctor who examined him was willing to prescribe medication if allowed by the court.

Banks, however, pointed out that he’s never heard Lambert talking to himself in court. He warned that medication may have side effects.

Lambert wasn’t happy with the argument.

“I think the prosecutor is just being a jerk,” he said.

“I think he’s opposing just to oppose me.”

Lambert said he would prefer to have leg shackles because he worried that his fidgeting will cause the brace to continually lock up.

In her ruling, Churchill said Lambert is a threat to others and that restraints are “absolutely necessary.” She noted that Lambert tried to gouge out a fellow patient’s eye when he was at Western State Hospital.

Churchill followed Dennis’ recommendation for a leg brace, but increased the number of officers in the courtroom to five. She also created a boundary in the courtroom of where Lambert is allowed to move and ruled that the bailiff will handle all exhibits.

Churchill then went through a long series of motions that Lambert filed with the court. He became clearly upset and raised his voice when she ruled against him.

We encourage an open exchange of ideas on this story's topic, but we ask you to follow our guidelines for respecting community standards. Personal attacks, inappropriate language, and off-topic comments may be removed, and comment privileges revoked, per our Terms of Use. Please see our FAQ if you have questions or concerns about using Facebook to comment.

Read the Dec 20
Green Edition

Browse the print edition page by page, including stories and ads.

Browse the archives.

Friends to Follow

View All Updates