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Whidbey murder suspects trade trial dates

Suspected murderer James Huden appears in court Monday with his attorney, Matt Montoya of Oak Harbor.  - Jessie Stensland / Whidbey News-Times
Suspected murderer James Huden appears in court Monday with his attorney, Matt Montoya of Oak Harbor.
— image credit: Jessie Stensland / Whidbey News-Times

Two men accused of murder have swapped trial dates in Island County Superior Court.

Under the current schedule, James Huden will go to trial on July 10 while Joshua Lambert’s trial has been moved to Nov. 27.

Huden is a 55-year-old man accused in the 2003 shooting death of Russel Douglas on South Whidbey. Lambert is a 31-year-old homeless man accused of stabbing to death both of his grandfathers on North Whidbey last October.

At a hearing Monday, Island County Prosecutor Greg Banks explained to the judge that Lambert wanted his trial pushed back in order to give him more time to prepare. Lambert is acting as his own attorney and is putting on an insanity defense. Banks said he agreed with the rescheduling of the trial.

Huden was originally scheduled to go to trial this month, but that changed after he obtained a new attorney. His trial date was then provisionally set for November, but Banks asked to reschedule it for July since the dates were now open.

He said Huden’s attorney, Matt Montoya of Oak Harbor, also wants the earlier court date. The attorney for Huden’s codefendant, Peggy Thomas, also preferred that Huden’s trial take place first.

Montoya told the judge that he has a “discovery issue” that he’s trying to work out with the prosecutor. He said he wants a defense expert to evaluate some of the physical evidence in the case.

Huden is facing a single count of first-degree murder with a firearm enhancement. If convicted, he could potentially face more than 30 years in prison.

Thomas, 46, is also facing first-degree murder with a firearm enhancement. She’s accused of conspiring with Huden and luring Douglas to a rural area of South Whidbey on Lancaster Road to kill him.

Prosecutors charged Lambert with two counts of murder in the first degree, one count of kidnapping, three counts of burglary in the first degree, one count of taking a motor vehicle and one count of unlawful possession of a firearm.

If convicted of all the charges, Lambert could face more than 90 years in prison under the standard sentencing range.

Lambert, an Oak Harbor High School dropout, has been working hard at his own defense, but has had difficulties complying with court rules or understanding certain aspects of the law. He became frustrated when Judge Vickie Churchill denied his motion for a polygraph test earlier this month and invoked his Fifth Amendment rights. He refused to answer questions, leaving the judge at a loss.

On Monday, Churchill again ruled on a list of motions from Lambert. She denied most of the motions, but he kept his composure. He made one motion, for example, to replace his standby attorney, Peter Simpson. He said he was upset that Simpson had given him inaccurate information and had spoken for him in court.

“I don’t want someone standing here saying things for me,” he said.

Churchill said she’s seen no evidence that Simpson has done anything improper. She denied his motion, saying that he doesn’t have a right to an attorney of his choice at the government’s expense.

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