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Originally published August 25, 2010 at 8:16 PM | Page modified August 25, 2010 at 8:30 PM

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No delay in death penalty decision in Monfort case

A judge has denied a motion filed by Christopher Monfort's defense team to order King County Prosecutor Dan Satterberg to delay announcing his decision on whether he will seek the death penalty in the case.

Seattle Times staff reporter

A King County judge has denied a motion filed by Christopher Monfort's defense team to order King County Prosecutor Dan Satterberg to delay announcing his decision on whether he will seek the death penalty in the case.

Satterberg is expected to announce his decision next week.

Superior Court Judge Ronald Kessler said Wednesday that he didn't believe he had the authority to intervene in Satterberg's charging decision. Under state law, a county prosecutor's office has 30 days from the time of a suspect's arraignment on aggravated-murder charges to decide whether to seek the death penalty.

Monfort was arraigned in November on five criminal counts, including aggravated first-degree murder in the Oct. 31 slaying of Seattle police Officer Timothy Brenton. Since then, Satterberg's office has repeatedly extended the deadline of the death-penalty announcement because of requests by Monfort's defense lawyers, said Senior Deputy Prosecutor John Castleton.

Defense attorney Julie Lawry argued that the defense team is overwhelmed with evidence and has a long list of witnesses to interview before filing mitigation materials to Satterberg's office. Monfort's defense team was supposed to file its mitigation materials with prosecutors by Aug. 2, but has not, Castleton said.

As part of the death-penalty decision, Satterberg is required by law to consider any mitigating circumstances as he carries out a thorough examination of the case and Monfort's background.

Castleton told Kessler that his office has extended the death-penalty decision long enough. He said the state statute does not allow a judge to order a county prosecutor to withhold the announcement.

Castleton added that the defense team for Daniel Hicks, a Seattle man accused of killing his girlfriend and infant daughter in December, has already submitted its mitigation materials. Hicks is accused of fatally shooting Jennifer Morgan, 28, and their 13-week-old daughter, Emma, on Dec. 21 in a house on Seattle's Beacon Hill, according to charges.

Satterberg is expected to announce whether the death penalty will be sought in the Hicks case on Sept. 17.

Monfort is charged with one count of aggravated murder, as well as three counts of attempted first-degree murder and first-degree arson. In addition to Brenton's slaying, he is also accused of wounding Brenton's partner.

Monfort is also accused of firebombing four Seattle police vehicles in October.

On Nov. 6, three Seattle homicide detectives confronted Monfort outside his Tukwila apartment. Charging documents say he twice aimed a handgun at officers before police shot him, which left Monfort, 41, paralyzed.

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Since his arrest, Monfort has abruptly voiced his political views and his concerns about police brutality during court hearings. On Wednesday, he lambasted Seattle police gang-unit Detective Shandy Cobane, who was caught on video telling a Latino man lying on a sidewalk: "I'm going to beat the [expletive] Mexican piss out of you, homey. You feel me?"

In the video, after the man moved a hand to his face, it appears Cobane is trying to stop the movement with his boot but ends up striking the man's head.

Monfort announced to the courtroom that anyone could be the target of such police brutality, including Judge Kessler.

Jennifer Sullivan: 206-464-8294 or jensullivan@seattletimes.com

Information from Seattle Times archives is included in this report.

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