Walradt trial moves into penalty phase
June 11, 2008 · Updated 11:35 AM
"It's going to be a different ballgame for the jury deciding whether convicted murderer Brodie Walradt should be sentenced to death or life in prison without parole for the 1999 slaying of Beth Kennard and her unborn baby, Alexis.The jury, which found 30-year-old Walradt guilty of aggravated first-degree murder last week, will reconvene today for the sentencing phase of the trial.The standard is whether the jury feels there are mitigating circumstances to keep a person alive so the death penalty is not imposed, said Mark Yelish, of the law firm Crawford, McGilliard, Peterson, Yelish and Dixon in Port Orchard. The firm represented Walradt prior to his trial.According to the Revised Code of Washington, section 10.95.070, the jury may consider prior significant history of criminal activity as a juvenile or adult; whether Walradt was extremely mentally disturbed when the murder was committed; whether he understood the consequences of his actions or was impaired by mental disease or defect; and whether it's likely he'll pose a danger to others in the future.But as Yelish said, those are only guidelines, and it's a wide-open ballgame. Whatever evidence (defense attorneys) think will assist the jury in understanding who (their) client is and why he doesn't deserve death is fair game.Yelish opposes the death penalty because I don't think it serves any kind of purpose, he said.It's overly expensive, inhumane, most civilized societies don't (extend) it, and murder, of all crimes, is the least thought out. I think it's oftentimes imposed because of the race of the victim, Yelish added.He noted the death penalty is imposed differently by different counties.Years ago there was a different prosecutor, and there were many more death penalities, he said. I think it's very discretionary with prosecutors.To avert a death penalty, defense attorneys may call relatives and friends to talk about Walradt's abused childhood, and psychology experts to say he has personality disorders, as they did during the trial.By statute, there are a lot of things the jury can look at. They can choose what they want to be a mitigating circumstance, said Pierce County Prosecutor Gerald Horne.This part of the trial will be the defense's show, and the state will be limited in what it can present.The state can present prior criminal convictions, Horne noted.It also may bring in testimony from the victim's family. Horne said Walradt also will have the right of allocution, to address the jury and plead for his life if he chooses.Defendants can tell the jury how they feel ... and say, give me whatever mercy/lenience you can, he said.The verdict also must be unanimous. Horne noted a murder case tried by former Kitsap County Prosecutor Dan Clem in the late 1980s, of a man who abducted three children and killed one. The other two survived to testify against him. The defendant chose to allocute, or speak to the jury.I remember it because they picked a jury from Tacoma, Horne said. I'm told he stood in front of the jury and said, 'I'm no damned good, I deserve to die, but I want to live.'The jury was not unanimous on the death penalty, he said.Horne said one of the jurors at the time was quoted as saying the decision might seem easy, but it was one of the toughest things he's ever had done.The death penalty is meant to be for the worst of the worst offenders, and all the counties around here seldom seek it. In the '80s and '90s on average we prosecuted 50 people under the homicide statutes, and in aggravated murder cases only sought the death penalty in one out of four, Horne said.The people overwhelmingly put in that law and we have to uphold it, he said. How the death penalty law is exercised differs from county to county, but we do the best we can.These are tough cases on everybody, Horne said. "