Judge asked to recuse herself in high-profile Kitsap murder trial

by: Alison Grande Updated:

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PORT ORCHARD, Wash. - The prosecution filed a motion asking a Kitsap County Superior Court judge to recuse herself after she made comments outside the courtroom.

Judge Jeanette Dalton is presiding over the murder trial of David Kalac.

Kalac, 35,  is charged with first-degree murder in the strangling of Amber Coplin in November 2014. After the murder, investigators said, Kalac posted graphic images of Coplin on the social media site 4chan. 

The trial started last Thursday with opening statements and three witnesses taking the stand. Monday was supposed to be the first full day of witness testimony, but instead, both sides presented motions to the court. The prosecution asked the judge to recuse herself, and the defense filed a fact-finding motion.

The motion filed by the prosecution detailed possible judicial misconduct by Dalton. According to court documents, Dalton praised the defense attorney on his opening statement, criticized the testimony of a prosecution witness, showed a graphic photo of victim Amber Coplin to someone who had nothing to do with the case and talked about a motion by the prosecution and hinted at how she might rule.

Dalton told both sides in court on Monday afternoon that her comments about the case had been “administrative.”

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While the prosecution asked  Dalton to recuse herself, the defense wasn't ready to make that request. Defense attorney Adrian Pimentel instead asked the court for a chance to investigate the comments made by the judge. The judge said Pimentel could investigate, but told him to be back in court on Tuesday at 10:30 a.m.

Dalton wasn't ready to rule on the motion.  She made it clear that if she did recuse herself, it would likely result in a mistrial.

"I have found no case where another judge could step into this trial at this juncture without the agreement of the defense, and the defense has not only not agreed, they have objected," said Dalton.

Amber Coplin's family was in the courtroom and said it would not comment until the judge ruled on the motion.