An Oak Harbor man who killed his two grandfathers in 2011 and was sentenced to 100 years in prison will be returning to an Island County courtroom.
The state Appeals Court recently reversed Joshua Lambert’s convictions for the “felony murder” of 80-year-old August Eisner and the first-degree burglary of his parents’ house. His convictions for the murder of his other grandfather, 80-year-old George Lambert, and the kidnapping of his great aunt and several other counts were affirmed by the court.
Island County Prosecutor Greg Banks, who tried the case, said he doesn’t plan to appeal the opinion to the state Supreme Court.
“It’s a very tough decision to receive, given the horrific nature of the murders and the deep wounds inflicted on the family and the community,” he said, but adding that he believes the opinion was legally correct.
Lambert and his attorneys, however, may choose to ask the Appeals Court to reconsider portions of the opinion that went against them or appeal those issues to the state Supreme Court.
Eventually, though, Lambert must return to Island County Superior Court, whether it’s for a new trial or re-sentencing.
Banks said he’ll wait for the appeals process to run its course before making any decisions on whether to retry Lambert. The Appeals Court made it clear that prosecutors can re-try the murder case, just not with the felony-murder alternative, he said.
Banks said he will make the decision in consultation with the families of the victims.
No matter what, Lambert will stay behind bars for many decades to come. Even if he’s re-sentenced without the Eisner murder conviction, Lambert faces a lengthy minimum sentence, Banks said. The jury found that Lambert should receive an exceptional sentence that allows the judge to go beyond the standard sentencing range.
As the opinion states, Lambert had a history of fixating on guns when he used methamphetamine. On Oct. 3, 2011, he went to the Oak Harbor house of his paternal grandfather, George Lambert, to steal guns. He brutally murdered his grandfather with a pocket knife, tied up his 66-year-old great aunt and stole her car.
Continuing his search for guns, Lambert drove to his parent’s house a few miles away. He confronted his maternal grandfather, Eisner, and demanded keys to a garage that contained a gun safe. When the elderly man refused, Lambert brutally murdered him with the same knife.
Lambert claimed that he was in the midst of a complex delusion when he committed the murders. He claimed FBI agents were trying to kill his son and he needed a gun to save him.
Lambert acted as his own attorney at trial and claimed insanity. He had difficulty following court procedure during pretrial hearings and the trial. He had many outbursts and was warned repeatedly by Judge Vickie Churchill that he wouldn’t be able to continue representing himself if he didn’t behave. He was forcibly removed from court at least twice by corrections deputies.
Churchill finally removed Lambert as his own attorney near the end of the trial after he was argumentative and continually asked inappropriate questions of the county coroner. Standby attorney Tom Pacher took over.
After the jury convicted him of the long list of charges, Churchill handed him an exceptional sentence of 100 years in prison.
Lambert’s appellate attorneys argued a series of issues on appeal, including whether his right to self-representation was inappropriately revoked.
In addition, Lambert submitted his own supplements appeals, arguing there was insufficient evidence that he was “legally sane” and that the court improperly denied him the right to represent himself.
“Lambert is very sad about the murders. He did not want to kill them,” he wrote, referring to himself in third person. “He was forced and tricked by the voices and a government that has supernatural powers.”
The defense attorneys were successful in the argument over the Eisner murder conviction. For strategic reasons, Banks charged Lambert with two alternative means for first-degree murder — premeditated murder and felony murder predicated on burglary in the first degree. To convict Lambert of felony murder, the prosecutor had to prove that the murder was convicted “during the course of, in furtherance of, or in immediate flight from the crime of burglary in the first degree.”
The problem, Banks said, is that Lambert testified he entered his parent’s house prior to confronting Eisner, which then means the murder doesn’t fit with the definition.
“The evidence shows Lambert killed August Eisner in the driveway,” the opinion states. “There is no evidence that Lambert assaulted Eisner while in the residence or that the assault occurred ‘in so entering’ or ‘in immediate flight’ from the residence.”
Since the trial judge instructed the jury that it need not be unanimous on which alternative means of murder they were convicting Lambert of, the murder conviction was dismissed.