Prosecutor on Harper ruling: 'This is a direct attack on us'

Prosecutor on Harper ruling: 'This is a direct attack on us'

YAKIMA, Wash. -- Yakima County's head prosecutor says his office is tired of being blamed for botching the West Valley triple murder case. The state lost its latest effort to try Kevin Harper for the crimes.

"Due to the tortured procedural history, which is extremely troublesome to this court, it only emphasizes a continued pattern of conduct on behalf of the state that has deprived this community and Mr. Harper of the closure they deserved." said Yakima County Superior Court Judge Ruth Reukauf.

Reukauf directly criticized the prosecution over the handling of the Kevin Harper case.

Blame and anger toward Yakima County prosecutors filled our Facebook page accusing the department of botching the case.

Prosecuting Attorney Jim Hagarty has heard the insults and takes issue with the judge.

"This is a direct attack on us. This is an, as far as I'm concerned, unprecedented attack on the prosecutor's office and we're just not going to stand by and listen to it anymore," Hagarty said.

Throughout the case, the judge repeatedly chastised prosecutors for not being ready. It came to a boil when one of them didn't show up for a scheduled hearing.
    
"Our missteps are minor compared to the other very large issues that are out there looming," he said.

"Do you feel that there were missteps, you say there's few missteps in the prosecutor's office, do you feel there are missteps from the beginning of this investigation?" KIMA asked.

"Yes," Hagarty said.

"In 2011?" KIMA asked.

"Yes," he said.

Two crucial witnesses who changed the entire timeline of the case weren't in any initial reports from deputies investigating the crime scene. Hagarty says it took a year and a half for prosecutors to find out they existed.

"Would you change anything?" Action News asked.

"Would I, well, from the prosecutors standpoint, no," Hagarty said.

Hagarty insists the case isn't over. His office plans to appeal the decision to uphold Kevin Harper's plea deal.

Prosecutors are still trying to have Kevin Harper convicted for the murders of Bill, Pauline and Bettye Goggin.

"Say that's denied, what is the next step? Is the case going to be closed? Do you think someone got away with murder?" KIMA asked.

"I don't know because the fact is, is we're confident that its going to be reversed," Hagarty said.

If not, Hagarty says there's no where else the case can go. His department's investigation focuses squarely on Harper.
    
"Did somebody get away with murder, I mean no, because we know who did it," he said. 
    
Hagarty says the the case won't change how his office operates and no one will be fired.

Prosecutors will now go over every document and transcript in the case, meet with the appellate court and appeal the judge's decision.

To get all sides, KIMA contacted the sheriff's department about its role in the investigation. Our calls were not returned.