The attempted murder case of a Klamath Falls man who is accused of slicing a man’s throat, but claims he was the true victim on the incident, will head to trial in September.
Klamath County Circuit Court Judge Dan Bunch on June 7 denied William Travis Newell’s motion to dismiss his felony charges of attempt to commit murder and unlawful use of a weapon. Bunch’s opinion letter was made public Tuesday.
Newell’s eight-day 12-person jury trial is scheduled to begin Sept. 9.
The defense motion, hashed out in a three-day April and June dismissal hearing, claimed shoddy law enforcement investigation and cronyism among the victim, witnesses and local law enforcement led to Newell’s faulty charges.
Newell is accused of slicing Kirkland Deese’s throat in a drunken fight on South Poe Valley Road in February 2018.
Newell’s Portland defense attorney, Richard Cohen, claims law enforcement failed to thoroughly investigate the incident.
In court, Cohen said authorities believed a faulty version of the night’s events from Deese and other witnesses because Deese’s dad and brother have been employed by local law enforcement, as has witness Mikayla Shepherd’s father.
Cohen did not explicitly deny or admit that Newell sliced Deese, nor did he present evidence to pin blame on any other party.
Rather, he argued that had investigators scrutinized other evidence — including a bloody knife never tested by a crime lab, a suspicious piece of flesh found hanging near Newell’s hat and cellphone, the non-life-threatening nature of Deese’s injuries, and conflicting witness accounts of the incident — they may have come to a different charging conclusion.
Cohen argued prosecutors violated Article 1, Section 20 of the Oregon constitution, which stipulates equality of privileges and immunities of citizens. He said other case witnesses, Colin Baker-Wood and Jacob Bedard, beat Newell and left him for dead in a ditch, and should have been charged with attempted murder.
Cohen argued precedent set by the Oregon Supreme Court in Oregon v. Savastano in 2013 requires prosecutors charge parties similarly situated in an incident (for example, people who attempted murder in a drunken fight) the same under Article 1, Section 20.
Judge weighs in
In his opinion denying Cohen’s motion, Judge Bunch said there was no evidence to indicate anyone other than Newell sliced Deese’s throat that night.
“Notwithstanding alcohol affected memories, inconsistent stories and/or potential fabrication, all evidence suggests Defendant Newell cut the throat of alleged victim Deese and that he did so without legal justification,” Bunch wrote. “... the Court cannot say that the charging decision is so unsupported by the evidence that the state’s motives for bringing the charge should be in question.”
Bunch dispensed the defense’s claims of discrimination motivated by cronyism, but agreed investigating authorities made several serious failures.
“While one could raise significant questions regarding the thoroughness of the investigation, the Court cannot determine that the litany of failures (or complicating factors) detailed by defense were tied to a discriminatory, arbitrary, or otherwise improper charging decision,” Bunch wrote.
The basis of Cohen’s motion, Bunch wrote, could only work if he proved Newell as an individual was selectively prosecuted. Cohen instead focused on the undercharging of other witnesses in the case, Bunch wrote.
“...the Court reiterates its finding that all possible defendants emerging from similar underlying facts would face a very serious felony charge, as does defendant Newell,” Bunch wrote.