Harper hearing will stay open as prosecutors try to refile murder charges

Harper hearing will stay open as prosecutors try to refile murder charges

YAKIMA, Wash. -- Prosecutors can't stop you from learning why Kevin Harper's plea deal might be off the table. Yakima County filed a request to keep the hearing closed to you and to our cameras. KIMA was ready to fight that request with other media outlets. Instead the prosecutor's office canceled that plan.

It was back to court for Kevin Harper, the man once on the hook for the West Valley triple murders.

Prosecutors dropped those charges in a shocking plea deal last fall. It left no one charged for the crime.

Months later the wheels are in motion to revoke that deal and recharge Harper. Prosecutors say Harper failed to follow the terms of their agreement and hoped the hearing to discuss the deal would be closed to the public -- including news reporters.

KIMA and other media outlets showed up to court ready to argue against that, but we never had to.

"I think everyone expected to be there arguing that motion," said Attorney Eric Stahl. "But for whatever reason they decided to withdraw it."

Prosecutors said they wanted to keep everything under wraps to protect Harper's right to a fair trial. They feared the case might need to be moved out of Yakima County to guarantee that.

However, Harper's attorney made it clear they wanted everything open to the public and the cameras. And now we finally have an idea of why the plea deal may be revoked.

Prosecutors said Harper's ex-wife changed her story, and there's new evidence pointing to Harper as the killer of Bill, Pauline and Bettye Goggin.They announced a new deal with Harper's ex-wife, but the judge isn't sure it's enforceable.

Kevin Harper and West, previously signed a co-operation agreement.  Supeior Court Judge, Ruth Reukauf questions if the agreement could actually serve as "immunity." Or, if it can be used to force Harper to continue to co-operate.

A hearing in September will decide the dispute. That's when the prosecution and the defense plan to call in new witnesses.

Prosecutors say a Washington State Patrolman has new personal information. The defense says it it's trying to reach a man who spent time in jail with Harper.

Prosecutors also question the validity of Kevin Harper's lie detector tests. They say he failed.

However in a heated moment in court today, Harper's defense attorney insisted he passed, after further review.

"I said, how can that possibly be, so we had it retested," Attorney Pete Mazzone said before the judge.

The judge also granted prosecutors the opportunity to speak with Crystal West again.

To add even more uncertainty,  the question has been reaised if any of this new evidence could even be used in another trial. And, it's still unclear if the prosectuion's eavesdropping in the first trial will come into play.


If you're confused, so are friends of the victims.

"This whole reason for this trial, the Goggins, is never brought up," said James Faulconer, friend of the Goggins. "It's always about Kevin Harper's rights. What about Bill, Pauline and Bettye's rights that night?"

Kevin Harper's case is now left in the balance. He already pleaded guilty to possessing property stolen from the Goggins.

A new hearing on the whole case is set for this fall. It will determine whether prosecutors can use the story Harper's ex is now telling.

Until then -- Harper is not charged with murder which continues to leave no one accountable for the brutal murders of three people.

Both prosecutors and defense attorneys say they have new witnesses for the case.

Harper's attorney says he's still concerned about his client getting a fair trial. He said he turned over a large portion of his defense strategy after Harper signed his plea deal.

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