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Thursday, December 7, 2023
Dec. 7, 2023

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Judge denies motion for mistrial in slaying of sheriff’s Sgt. Jeremy Brown

Unredacted version of law enforcement radio traffic played in error

By , Columbian staff reporter

Family and supporters of Clark County sheriff’s Sgt. Jeremy Brown breathed a collective sigh of relief Tuesday morning after a judge denied a defense motion for a mistrial for the Salem, Ore., man accused of fatally shooting the detective.

The motion came just a half-hour into testimony Tuesday in the aggravated murder trial of Guillermo Raya Leon, 28. He is also charged in Clark County Superior Court with first-degree trafficking in stolen property, first-degree burglary, theft of a motor vehicle and two counts of possession of a stolen firearm. He’s claiming self-defense in the shooting.

Prosecutors played for the jury the law enforcement radio traffic from when a team of detectives were surveilling an east Vancouver apartment complex the evening Brown was shot. But the prosecutors mistakenly played the unredacted version of the 40-minute recording.

They realized their error when a detective was heard on the recording saying that a man Brown had described over the radio was likely a person of interest in an attempted murder in Salem. The defense had argued that Brown was describing Raya Leon.

Judge Derek Vanderwood had previously ruled that evidence of Raya Leon’s criminal history, including his possible involvement in the attempted murder, was excluded from trial and should be redacted from evidence.

Shortly after that portion of the recording played, Chief Criminal Deputy Prosecutor Anna Klein paused the recording and asked the judge for a recess. When the jury left the courtroom, Klein told the judge of the mistake.

Prosecutor Tony Golik said the error was brief and unintentional. He said he did not know how the unredacted version got into evidence.

Defense attorney Therese Lavallee moved for a mistrial, arguing even if only one juror noticed the detective’s comment about the Salem investigation, that was enough to taint deliberations.

“I don’t know how we can unring that bell,” Lavallee said.

Vanderwood noted the state’s playing of the recording violated his pre-trial ruling. However, he said he recognized it was a mistake. He also noted the recording is difficult to decipher at times and neither the state nor defense called attention to the error in front of the jury. The judge had initially said he didn’t hear the portion that violated his ruling and had the prosecutor replay it to point it out.

After the lunch-hour break, the defense team reiterated its position that there’s no way to correct the prosecution’s mistake and a mistrial was the only solution.

Vanderwood did not change his ruling, however, and the trial resumed in the afternoon with the jury listening to the remainder of the redacted version of the recording.

Trial is scheduled to resume Wednesday with more state’s witnesses.

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