Original article no longer available
The Tri-City Herald
Published Saturday, May 26th, 2007
MICHELLE DUPLER HERALD STAFF WRITER
A Benton County Superior Court judge decided Friday not to release a report that could shed some light on the mental competency of accused murderer Igor Samolyuk.
Judge Carrie Runge said the Herald’s request to make the report public was premature because no dates had been set for a competency hearing or a trial.
Samolyuk, 20, is charged with the second-degree aggravated murder of his 18-year-old wife, Yana, who was found stabbed to death in a parked car with him in Finley on July 8, 2006.
The case has been on hold since December 2006, when Samolyuk’s court-appointed defense attorney, Kevin Holt, said his client’s memory loss and problems with prescribed drugs were impeding progress in the case.
In January 2006, Samolyuk crashed his car into a pole on Highway 12 near Wallula and spent three weeks in a Seattle hospital with numerous broken bones, internal injuries and a fractured skull.
He began taking antidepressants after the accident. Holt said in December his client was having nightmares, sweating and other issues.
Samolyuk was evaluated by doctors from Eastern State Hospital to determine his competency to stand trial.
Holt said Thursday that much of the information in the hospital’s report, including statements made by Samolyuk and his medical records, shouldn’t be released because it would not be admissible at trial. He also thought it would be too hard to redact that information from the report.
Holt also said releasing the information would make it harder to pick a jury when the case goes to trial and would jeopardize his client’s right to a fair trial.
Shelley Hall, attorney for the Herald, said Holt was only speculating about the consequences of releasing the report, and argued that a constitutional right to public access at was stake.
Hall also said if the document could be redacted, the court had to consider that as a less-restrictive alternative to keeping it sealed.
Benton County Prosecutor Andy Miller said he thought the court should release the parts of the report that would be admissible as evidence later.
“We need to balance between two different constitutional rights — the right to a fair trial and the right to public access,” Miller said.
Holt offered to go ahead and release the summary of findings from the report, and to release the rest of the materials later if they were used at a trial or competency hearing.
But Runge chose to keep the entire document temporarily sealed without talking about the constitutional issues in her ruling. She said only that she found the Herald’s request premature.
Runge will reconsider the issue on July 13, two weeks before the competency hearing she set for 8:30 a.m. July 27.