Judge's ruling affects Jolley trial proceedings

As referees of the law, judges often make decisions that are vital to the outcome of a case long before it even goes to trial.

In the recent Glenn Jolley case, for example, Island County Superior Court Judge Alan Hancock made several important rulings, including one decision the defense attorney may use as the basis of an appeal.

While the trial delved into very emotional material, Hancock says his role was to impartially rule over the trial based on the law.

This summer, Hancock ruled that Oak Harbor attorney Christon Skinner could not represent Jolley in the trial because a potential witness had previously hired Skinner for her divorce case.

Hancock twice denied Island County Deputy Prosecutor Mike Henegen’s request to admit evidence of other women who accused Jolley of sexual misconduct.

Hancock said Tuesday that the law is pretty clear on this issue. In order to admit the allegations into court, he said, “There needs to be some sort of evidence that the incidents had occurred.” He said the prosecution should have asked for a pre-trial hearing to allow Hancock to examine the allegations and decide if there’s a “preponderance of evidence” showing that they are accurate.

“The state did not follow appropriate procedures,” he said.

But even if there had been a pre-trial examination of the evidence, Hancock said he likely still wouldn’t have allowed these allegations against Jolley in the trial.

“The basic rule is that the other acts of misconduct are not admissible,” Hancock said, adding that the only basis this kind of information can be allowed is if it shows “a common scheme or plan.” But to qualify for that, he said there must be a “very substantial similarity” between the different allegations. All the different allegations against Jolley aren’t similar enough, he said.

In addition, Hancock denied the defense attorney’s request to sever the three different charges against Jolley, meaning to break the case into three different trials. Under the law, crimes of a “same or similar character” can be tried together. There are several factors judges have to look at in deciding whether charges can be severed. Hancock said he weighed the factors and decided to keep the charges together under one case.

“There’s a strong policy of judicial economy,” Hancock said, pointing out that breaking up the charges into three different trials would cost the taxpayers quite a bit more money. And anyway, he said he solved the issue of cross admissibility — which was the one factor that weighed in favor or severing — by instructing the jury not to use evidence of the alleged rape in deciding the other two charges, and vice versa.

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