Boysen lawyers seek way out of life sentence in grandparents’ murders
Defense attorneys representing Michael Chadd Boysen will ask a judge on Friday to sentence the 27-year-old felon to 40 years in prison for strangling his grandparents with a shoelace and stashing their bodies in a bedroom closet inside their Renton-area home.
Seattle Times staff reporter
Call it the legal equivalent of a Hail Mary.
In a desperate, last-ditch move that seems doomed to fail, defense attorneys representing Michael Chadd Boysen will ask a judge on Friday to sentence the 27-year-old felon to 40 years in prison for strangling his grandparents with a shoelace and stashing their bodies in a bedroom closet inside their Renton-area home.
Boysen, who was charged with two counts of aggravated first-degree murder for the March deaths of Norma and Robert Taylor, was spared a possible trip to death row when King County Prosecutor Dan Satterberg decided in August not to seek the death penalty against him.
When Boysen entered an Alford plea on Oct. 4, admitting a jury would likely find him guilty of the crimes, he and his attorneys signed a statement acknowledging that with the death penalty off the table, the only possible punishment he faced was life in prison without the possibility of release.
Despite a state statute that provides no wiggle room for judicial discretion in sentencing defendants guilty of aggravated first-degree murder, defense attorneys James Conroy and Scott Ketterling filed a pre-sentencing memo last week in King County Superior Court, seeking an exceptional downward sentence of 20 years on each count to be served consecutively.
In the memo, they point to Boysen’s history of traumatic brain injury and mental illness, numerous episodes of self harm, and the “torture” they say he has endured while in custody in the King County Jail as factors in arguing that the punishment of back-to-back life sentences is “clearly excessive” given “the unique circumstances of this case.”
A 20-year prison term represents the low end of the standard sentencing range for first-degree murder, according to the defense memo.
Conroy did not return phone calls seeking comment.
In the state’s response to Boysen’s defense memo, King County Senior Deputy Prosecutors Wyman Yip and Erin Norgaard wrote that state law does not allow any flexibility in sentencing someone for aggravated first-degree murder.
The law is “clear and unambiguous,” and appellate courts have repeatedly confirmed that the aggravated first-degree murder statute “means exactly what it says — the trial court has no ability to fashion a sentence less than life imprisonment without the possibility of release or parole,” they wrote.
On March 9, less than two days after Boysen completed a nine-month prison sentence at Monroe Correctional Complex for an attempted residential burglary, his grandparents were found dead in their Renton-area home, both strangled with a shoelace. Credit cards, cash, jewelry and the Taylors’ vehicle were taken from the house.
Police believe robbery was the motive for the double murder.
A statewide manhunt for Boysen ended March 12, when police broke down the door of his Lincoln City, Ore., motel room and found Boysen in a pool of blood.
According to a June letter prepared by Mark Cunningham, a clinical and forensic psychologist hired by the defense, Boysen woke to the sounds of police breaking into the room and grabbed a steak knife, opening blood vessels in his arms, feet and thighs, the letter says. The injuries required 160 staples and 100 stitches to close.
Since being jailed in King County, Boysen has attempted suicide at least four times and has also been rushed to the hospital after reopening his wounds or inserting foreign objects — crayons, strips of hard plastic, bits of brown paper wrapped in plastic from a sandwich bag and paint chips — into his penis, court records say.
Additionally, Cunningham’s letter indicates Boysen has a history of suicide attempts, including while in prison. He once threw himself from a third-floor tier to the concrete floor below, suffering broken bones and a traumatic brain injury.
A motion filed by the defense in July says Boysen has spent up to 10 hours at a time strapped to a hard backboard, and had spent “approximately 20 continuous days” strapped to a restraint bed.
On July 2, Boysen told his defense attorneys to stop preparing mitigation materials that could help him avoid the death penalty, according to court records.
In entering an Alford plea to two counts of aggravated first-degree murder earlier this month, Boysen said he was truly remorseful and wanted to spare his family the trauma of a trial.
In their most recent filing, Conroy and Ketterling wrote that they are convinced part of the reason Boysen decided to plead guilty was because of his treatment while in jail.
“The medieval ‘methodologies’ employed by the King County Jail in addressing Mr. Boysen’s self harming episodes was and are inhumane, and would succeed in driving anyone crazy if they weren’t already crazy before arriving at the King County Jail,” they wrote.
Information from Seattle Times archives is included in this report.
Sara Jean Green: 206-515-5654 or email@example.com