July 2006 Seattle Jewish Center Shooting - Legal Proceedings

Legal Proceedings

On July 29, the day after the shooting, Haq appeared in court for his bail hearing. King County, Washington District Court Judge Barbara Linde found that the King County Prosecuting Attorney's Office had probable cause to charge Haq with one count of murder and five counts of attempted murder. Before the proceedings began, Haq requested that the judge allow him to not attend the hearing. Linde denied both this request and another motion to bar cameras and video taping from the courtroom. She also set Haq's bail at $50 million. On August 2, Haq was formally charged with nine felonies: aggravated murder, five counts of attempted murder, kidnapping, burglary and malicious harassment. Malicious harassment is a hate crime under Washington State law. Aggravated murder, the most serious of the nine charges, carries only two possible sentences in Washington: life in prison or the death penalty. The prosecution, however, ultimately decided not to seek the death penalty because of Haq's history of mental illness.

During a hearing on August 10, 2006, Haq surprised the court by indicating that he wished to enter a guilty plea on all charges. The judge refused to accept this plea before a competency hearing had been conducted. Additionally, experts consulted by the Seattle Post-Intelligencer expressed doubts as to whether Haq would be allowed to plead guilty at such an early point in the legal process because the prosecution had not yet decided whether Haq would face the death penalty. On August 16, C. Wesley Richards, Haq's attorney, told the court that Haq had changed his mind and chosen to plead not guilty. Additionally, Richards said that Haq was mentally competent to stand trial since he understood the charges against him and was capable of assisting in his own defense.

One of the most difficult decisions faced by King County Prosecutor Norm Maleng was whether to charge Haq with the death penalty. Two of the victims, Layla Bush and Carol Goldman, publicly opposed charging the shooter with a capital crime, with both saying that death would be "too easy for him." Additionally, prosecutors in Washington are required to consider "mitigating factors" when deciding whether to seek the death penalty. In Washington State mental illness is considered a mitigating factor and Haq's lawyers provided the prosecution with records from Haq's 10-year history of treatment for mental health problems. On December 20, 2006, more than four months after initially charging Haq with aggravated murder, Maleng announced that Haq would not face execution, but, if convicted, would be sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Haq's trial began in the King County Courthouse (Seattle) on April 14, 2008 and was covered on Court TV. On June 4, 2008, the jury found him not guilty on one count of attempted murder (for victim Carol Goldman); on the remaining counts, the jury declared itself to be hung. The judge declared a mistrial. His second trial commenced in late 2009, and he was found guilty on all counts, including aggravated first-degree murder, on December 15, 2009. He was sentenced to life without parole plus 120 years.

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