Washington Supreme Court Upholds Death Penalty Conviction

The case, which hinges on a 2006 quadruple murder, is likely to be appealed to the United States Supreme Court.

Kirkland Reporter file photo

Kirkland Reporter file photo

The Washington state Supreme Court upheld the 2010 conviction and death penalty sentence of Conner Schierman, a former Bellevue and Kirkland resident, for quadruple murder and arson committed back in 2006.

In a 254-page opinion filed on the morning of April 12, the supreme court upheld the four counts of aggravated murder in the first degree and one count of arson in the first degree as well as the imposed death sentence. The vote was divided, with the death penalty upheld by a 6-3 majority and the convictions by a close 5-4 vote.

After a King County Superior Court jury found Schierman guilty back in 2010, the case was eventually appealed to the state Supreme Court, where it has lingered for the past three years.

King County Prosecuting Attorney Dan Satterberg said that he is confident that the case will be appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court. “This is only the end of the first inning,” he said. “Now, we expect appeals to go into the federal system.”

Satterberg added that he thinks that the federal appeals process will likely take another ten years, adding to the over-a-decade-long court proceedings in the case. “It would be shocking if they were to drop all appeals, especially given the split in the state court,” he said. “We always assume that these cases will be appealed forever because it doesn’t cost the defendant anything.”

“It takes a very long time and the stakes are very high for everybody,” he added.

In the morning of July 17, 2006, firefighters and law enforcement responded to a fire at the home of Leonid and Olga Milkin, a married couple. After extinguishing the fire, they found the bodies of Olga, Olga’s sister, Lyubov Botvina, and Olga’s two sons Justin and Andrew—who were aged five and three. Autopsies revealed that all of the deceased had been stabbed before the fire was set. (Leonid Milkin was serving with the National Guard in Iraq at the time.)

Schierman contended that he was in a drunken blackout at the time of the murders, though he admitted to burning down the house, per the opinion. Investigators found Schierman’s DNA in the Malkin’s Kirkland home, and prosecutors argued that he burned down the home to cover up the crime.

“It was never a question in our mind that this man was guilty of killing,” said Satterberg. “We are grateful and relieved that the court so far has upheld that conviction.”

Following the 2010 conviction, Schierman was sent to death row.

Despite pursuing the death penalty in the Schierman case, Satterberg is a public critic of capital punishment. During the 2018 Washington state Legislative session, Satterberg testified in favor of a bill that would have repealed the death penalty in Washington state. The bill passed the state Senate, but never passed out of the House.

Back in 2014, Governor Jay Inslee placed a moratorium on capital punishment, temporarily sparing the eight inmates on death row from execution. The moratorium will last as long as Inslee is in office.

Satterberg said that while he thinks that the death penalty is ineffective and inefficient due to the length of time the cases take to play out, the financial cost they impose on the public, and the potential that a conviction will be overturned later on in the legal process, it is still legal in Washington state.

“I do have some personal and professional misgivings on it, but it’s not based on if it is unconstitutional or immoral but more that it doesn’t work,” he said.

Satterberg said that Milkin is intent on pursuing the death penalty, regardless of the prosecuting attorney’s misgivings concerning capital punishment. “I’ve told him my misgivings about it, but I don’t expect him to have the same perspective.”

According to a 2015 Seattle University study, the average death penalty case in Washington costs taxpayers roughly $3 million—over $1 million more than when the death penalty is not pursued by local prosecutors. (This figure includes trial and post-conviction incarceration costs.)

jkelety@soundpublishing.com

More in News & Comment

Rhino riggers protest outside of the Jay-Z and Beyonce show outside of Seattle’s CenturyLink Field on Oct. 4, 2018. Photo courtesy of IATSE
The Backstage Blues: Riggers Complain of Unfair Labor Practices

Theatrical stage employees come for the music and stay for the thrill. But at what price?

The Seattle City Council voted in favor of the police union’s contract. Photo by Melissa Hellmann
City Council Approves Controversial Police Contract

Despite strong opposition, the majority of councilmembers ratified the agreement.

Rat City Roller Girls Ready to Rumble in 15th Season

New jammers and blockers make debut Nov. 17 at Debutante Brawl

Seattle police car. Photo by Dmitri Fedortchenko, Flickr Creative Commons.
Community Groups and Seattle Police Chief Weigh in On Police Contract

Seven of nine councilmembers will need to pass the agreement to ratify it. What will they decide?

Citizens gather for an interfaith candlelight vigil Nov. 1 at the Snohomish County Courthouse to honor the 11 victims of an attack at a Pittsburgh synagogue. Photo courtesy of The Herald.
Issaquah Company Hosts Gab, Social Media Favorite of the Far-Right

Website was pulled by GoDaddy after Pittsburgh synagogue shooting.

The team that advocated for I-1631 at downtown Seattle’s Arctic Club on Nov. 6, 2018. Photo by Melissa Hellmann
Washington Rejects Carbon Fee

Campaign organizers say they will continue pushing for a cleaner future.

The race for Washington’s 8th Congressional District is between Kim Schrier (D) and Dino Rossi (R). File photo
Schrier Leads Rossi in Hotly-Contested 8th Congressional District

Candidates compete for seat vacated by Republican Dave Reichert

The race for Washington’s 9th Congressional District is between two Democrats, incumbent Adam Smith (left) and political newcomer Sarah Smith. File photo
Congressman Adam Smith Leads Re-Election Bid for WA’s 9th District

The district spans from Bellevue and south Seattle down through Renton, Tukwila, Kent, Federal Way and Tacoma

Most Read