Sept. 9 — Accused murderer Jonathan Douglas Shaw saw his trial continue into the next jury session after Flathead District Court Judge Dan Wilson ruled Wednesday that a delayed mental health evaluation could leave prosecutors without time to adjust the their case.
Authorities arrested Shaw after a deadly shootout in the parking lot of Fuel Fitness in Kalispell nearly a year ago that ended after a gym patron retrieved a gun from his vehicle and shot Shaw, according to court documents. Matthew Hurley, an employee of the gym, died from the shooting. Shaw and the gym patron, identified as William Keck, both suffered injuries.
Shaw has remained in the county jail, held on $1 million bail, since the shooting. He pleaded not guilty to charges of manslaughter and attempted manslaughter in Flathead District Court in October 2021.
In June, Shaw’s lawyer, Liam Gallagher, said he would pursue a defense based around a developmental disability or mental illness or disorder that left Shaw without the mental state required for the charges of intentional and attempted murder. The mental health evaluation was scheduled for mid-August, but was later delayed.
During a Sept. 7 status hearing, Deputy County Attorney John Donovan told Wilson that, as of that morning, the evaluation was set for Sept. 8-9. With Shaw’s jury trial expected to begin Sept. 19, he asked for a continuance.
If the evaluation were to give the green light to a mental health defense, prosecutors would have to prepare and likely want their own evaluation done, Donovan said. He also supported — but quickly backed off — the judge’s idea of sanctioning Gallagher and Shaw for failing to comply with discovery by excluding that defense.
“Given the timing of the scheduled assessment, [the] the defendant cannot comply with that obligation unless he does so on the eve of trial,” Donovan wrote in his motion and argued before Wilson.
When Wilson pushed back on the idea of a sanction, Donovan clarified and said he was just looking for continuity.
BUT GALLAGHER was taken aback by Donovan’s suggestion that the defense was at fault. He faulted Donovan for failing to arrange a mental health evaluation for the prosecution in the months since the substance of Shaw’s defense came to light.
“[Donovan] he’s had that information for three months,” Gallagher said. “He’s done nothing but sit on his hands and come to me.”
“We are ready for trial,” Gallagher added.
Wilson, however, disagreed and noted that without the assessment, Gallagher was missing a key piece of information. Wilson also pointed to arguments during the July pretrial conference where the present scenario was discussed.
At the time, all sides agreed that if an evaluation that allowed the mental health defense came back, then the prosecution would have time to arrange its own evaluation of Shaw, which would likely result in a continuance, Wilson said.
“Maybe your memory is better than mine,” Gallagher said.
“I have a transcript, actually,” Wilson replied.
The back-and-forth was one of many as Wilson and Gallagher battled over the latter’s objection to going forward.
“He’s not asking for the sanction, so why are you using the court’s time to argue about a motion that’s not on the table,” Wilson shot back at Gallagher at one point, moments later describing the defense attorney as having a “stimulating disposition to accept legal arguments as personal attacks’.
Despite the heated exchange, Wilson initially said he thought the prosecution’s request was premature. Why not wait until the assessment is done and go from there, he asked. If Gallagher could go forward with his defense, prosecutors could review the results and decide what to do next.
WILSON HAS A CHANGE OF MIND after questioning Gallagher about his expected completion time on Shaw’s assessment results.
The judge began by grilling Gallagher on the circumstances in which he would hand over the information, which Gallagher said was when he would choose to pursue a mental health defense. Wilson noted that defense counsel could wait until the eleventh hour.
“You said a reasonable amount of time, and I’m trying to understand what that means to you,” he said.
“Give me a couple of days, let me sleep,” Gallagher replied. “Let me speak to my client.”
Wilson pressed Gallagher to commit to an appointment, but the defense attorney refused.
“I intend to never make that commitment,” Gallagher said.
When Wilson asked if he could wait until prosecutors rested their case to decide on his defense, Gallagher said he believed he could.
That proved enough for Wilson, though Gallagher went on to argue that Donovan could have sought his own evaluation in the intervening weeks and months.
“If your position is that you have no obligation until the state rests, it seems that under these circumstances the state would not be able to make a reasonable decision,” Wilson said.
The judge ruled that was enough to rule on the motion to continue — and side with prosecutors.
A new pre-trial conference in the case is now scheduled for January 4, and the trial will continue after that date. Both manslaughter and attempted manslaughter carry a maximum sentence of up to 100 years in prison. Additional time — between two and 10 years — can be added because of the use of a firearm.
News Editor Derrick Perkins can be reached at 758-4430 or firstname.lastname@example.org.