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June 6, 2012 at 10:16 AM

State AG wants review of overturned death-row conviction

The Washington Attorney General’s Office plans to ask the U.S. Supreme Court to review a recent decision by the Washington Supreme Court that overturned the conviction of a man who has spent the past 18 years on death row.

Clallam County Prosecutor Deborah Kelly said this morning that after the May 10 ruling by the state Supreme Court  prosecutors filed a motion to delay the court from issuing a certificate of finality in Darold Stenson’s case. Last month, the state Supreme Court, in an 8-1 ruling, found that Stenson’s rights were violated because prosecutors “wrongfully suppressed” favorable evidence. At the crux of the reversal was possibly tainted gunshot residue found on the jeans Stenson wore on the night in March 1993 when his wife, Denise, and business partner, Frank Hoerner, were killed at the Stensons’ exotic-bird farm, said his attorney Sheryl Gordon McCloud.

The Attorney General’s Office is working on its petition to the U.S. Supreme Court. The petition must be filed no later than Aug. 8, Kelly said.

Stenson, 59, was an exotic-bird dealer living near Sequim when he allegedly shot his wife at their home in what prosecutors called an effort to collect $800,000 in insurance. He allegedly shot and killed Hoerner to get out from a debt he owed the man, and to make it look like Hoerner killed Denise Stenson as part of a love-triangle murder-suicide.

Stenson’s three children were asleep nearby when the slayings occurred.

Stenson and Hoerner had been embroiled in a dispute over the cost of ostriches, which Stenson handled on his 5-acre Dakota Farms, prosecutors claimed.

Hoerner’s widow testified that Stenson persuaded the couple to invest their life savings of $48,000 in ostriches, but the birds never materialized.

Comments | More in The Blotter | Topics: attorney general, Clallam County, death penalty

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