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Copyright © 2003 Express Publishing Inc.
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Wednesday, July 14, 2004


Johnson trial may be postponed

Santistevan trial is rescheduled

Express Staff Writer

Citing the Blaine County Sheriff’s alleged failure to produce evidence or allow thorough examinations of evidence, the attorney for alleged double murderer Sarah M. Johnson filed a motion last week for his client’s trial to be postponed for a third time.

Sarah M. Johnson

Johnson, 17, is accused of shooting her parents, Alan and Diane Johnson, in their Bellevue home on Sept. 2, 2003. She was arrested Oct. 29 and is incarcerated at the Blaine County Jail in lieu of a $2 million bond.

Johnson’s attorney, public defender Bob Pangburn, wrote in his motion that the defense would not be able to examine and test all of the physical evidence in the case, or to evaluate all the complex scientific issues, by the scheduled trial date of Sept. 27.

Visiting 5th District Judge Barry Wood will decide the matter Thursday, July 15 at 1:30 p.m. in 5th District Court in Hailey.

Blaine County Sheriff Walt Femling took exception to the allegation that he obstructed a timely review of the evidence involved.

"It sounds like a blame game to me," he said.

Femling said the defense team reviewed evidence for three "solid days," examining about 380 pieces of evidence while sheriff’s deputies supervised. Another 70 pieces of evidence are ready for the defense team’s review, Femling said.

"We did our job," the sheriff said. "We’ve handed over everything they’ve wanted. We worked time-and-a-half getting it all together."

For his part, Blaine County Prosecuting Attorney Jim Thomas said he agrees that a continuance of the trial is inevitable. However, Thomas said there is no fault to find with the Blaine County Sheriff’s Office.

"Presumably the defense is placing the blame squarely on the state’s agent as opposed to accepting responsibility for their failure to expeditiously ask for a review of the evidence," Thomas wrote in a response to Pangburn’s motion.

Thomas suggested the court consider "an absolute trial date" for early January 2005.

David L. Santistevan

In another high profile Blaine County shooting case, the trial for alleged shooter David L. Santistevan was postponed from July 19 to Aug. 23, pending the complete recovery of one of Santistevan’s alleged victims, John Marshall Hooten.

Santistevan’s attorney, Doug Nelson, made the motion.

Santistevan, 46, of Bellevue, was arrested in connection with the shootings of two Bellevue youths on Monday, March 29, in an alley behind a bar. Santistevan allegedly shot Hooten, 19, and Ty Peak, 15, who were riding a four wheeler. Both youths lived, but Hooten, who was shot in the abdomen, sustained serious injuries. Authorities said Peak was shot in his rear end as he attempted to flee.


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