SOUTH BEND — Thomas Shotwell, 26 of Nemah, facing a first-degree murder charge for allegedly gunning down his twin brother Raymond Shotwell on June 17, has a new high-profile Seattle lawyer assisting in his defense.
During the Pacific County Superior Court docket on Sept. 3, John Henry Browne introduced himself to the court, joining Shotwell’s original attorney, Nathan Needham of Long Beach.
Browne is best known for cases involving “Barefoot Bandit” Colton Harris-Moore and serial killer Ted Bundy. He also helped defend former U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Robert Bales, who was accused of killing 16 Afghanistan civilians in March 2012 in an incident sometimes dubbed the Kandahar Massacre. Bales later pleaded guilty to avoid the death penalty.
Shotwell’s appearance was scheduled to be a trial-setting hearing, including a motion for pretrial release, but quickly changed to an “address concerns hearing.”
At least two dozen family members and other supporters — including his mother, Andrea Shotwell — were present to express a wish for Shotwell to be freed from jail on his own recognizance pending trial.
Needham requested and was given Judge Don Richter’s permission for those present who support pretrial release to stand for recognition. More than three-quarters of the audience stood up.
However, Browne asked for the pretrial-release motion to be set over to the Sept. 10, 1:30 p.m. docket to allow time to address other concerns and issues.
According to Browne, Shotwell is a severe diabetic and is currently not being well taken care of inside the jail, including issues with his client getting access to a continuous glucose meter. The meter allows his client’s blood sugar to be taken every few minutes with a device attached to his skin.
Jail staff reportedly took issue with the request and had concerns about what the device could be used for, such as a weapon for Shotwell to harm himself or others.
Shotwell’s mother provided a brief explanation about the device and the medical issue her son is having. Browne said his client’s blood sugar has been consistently well above 300 mg/dl.
The typical target blood sugar range for people with diabetes, especially type-1 diabetes, is between 100-200 mg/dl. A level of 300 mg/dl and above is considered dangerous and life-threatening.
Richter, at the defense’s request, ordered the prosecution to work with jail staff to make sure Shotwell gets his monitoring device in a timely manner. He approved allowing either Shotwell’s mother to pick up the prescription and bring it to the jail, or for jail staff to pick it up themselves.
Browne has at times been considered as close as Washington state comes to a “celebrity lawyer,” mounting defenses that aim to convince jurors that his clients’ personal circumstances provide extenuating circumstances that ought be taken into account in assessing the severity of crimes.
His strategies have come under scrutiny by some prosecutors and judges. At times, he has chosen unorthodox methods, including engaging in arguments with judges and playing to the news media.
In Washington, one recent case involved Harris-Moore, who committed numerous burglaries and thefts, including planes. In May 2010, he stole the luxury fishing boat Fat Cat, valued at $450,000, in Ilwaco to cross the Columbia River in style. On his way through Raymond en route to Ilwaco, Harris-Moore stopped and left a $100 donation and a signed note at the Vetters Animal Hospital. He was ultimately captured after crashing a plane in the Bahamas and fleeing in a boat. He was eventually extradited back to the U.S.
Harris-Moore, facing felony charges, received a six-year prison sentence in January 2012 after extensive work by Browne. He was paroled in September 2016 after serving most of his sentence and took a job in Browne’s office.
Browne and Needham declined to comment regarding the hearing for Shotwell and the pending motion for pretrial release. Ultimately, Richter will have to weigh whether to allow bail or personal-recognizance release for Shotwell.