February 21, 2013 at 1:51 PM
Judge: Imprisoned arsonist Martin Pang not entitled to court documents
A King County Superior Court judge has denied a motion filed by Martin Pang seeking additional court documents from the King County Prosecutor’s Office more than 15 years after he was convicted of starting a fire that killed four Seattle firefighters.
Jeffrey Ellis, who is representing the man convicted of setting the fatal 1995 warehouse fire, said he is seeking “to review the entire prosecutor’s file.” Ellis has claimed that documents are being withheld by prosecutors.
For Ellis, the biggest issue in question is Pang’s whereabouts when the fire was set. While prosecutors have always contended that Pang flew up from Los Angeles the day of the fire, Ellis wrote that during his review of some filings he “found several sworn statements, previously filed under seal, which unequivocally stated that Mr. Pang was in Los Angeles when the warehouse fire was set.”
Ellis alleges that Pang was “coerced” into confessing his guilt. Pang’s previous legal team, led by John Henry Browne, also argued that Pang’s confession was coerced. However, Pang stated in court that his confession was true and later pleaded guilty to four counts of manslaughter.
King County prosecutors have said that the documents Ellis is seeking are private work product, which the state is not required to release.
On Wednesday, King County Superior Court Judge Beth Andrus, in denying the Pang motion, ruled that she does not have authority to grant a request for discovery when a case is final, Ellis said.
Ellis said he needs to talk to Pang before filing an appeal.
Pang pleaded guilty on Feb. 19, 1998, to setting fire to his family’s Chinatown International District warehouse. Prosecutors said he torched the building to collect insurance money.
Lt. Walter Kilgore, 45, Lt. Gregory Shoemaker, 43, and firefighters Randall Terlicker, 35, and James Brown, 25, died when the floor of the frozen-foods warehouse collapsed on Jan. 5, 1995, trapping them inside.
Pang, now 57, was prosecuted after a long and involved extradition battle with Brazil, where he had fled shortly after the blaze.
Pang is serving a 35-year prison sentence at the Monroe Correctional Complex.
“We are disappointed that Mr. Pang has apparently changed his mind and no longer accepts responsibility for the deaths of the four firefighters,” Ian Goodhew, deputy chief of staff for the King County Prosecutor’s Office, said this week.
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