Appeal Of Pretrial Ruling Could Delay Start Of Randy Roth Murder Trial

The Feb. 24 trial date for accused killer Randy Roth may be in jeopardy, depending on what happens following arguments attorneys will make tomorrow before a state Court of Appeals commissioner.

The Woodinville man was arrested in October, charged with drowning his wife, Cynthia, on Lake Sammamish last summer to collect insurance money.

Roth's attorneys, George Cody and John Muenster, are appealing King County Superior Court Judge Frank Sullivan's denial of their request last month to throw out the murder charge against Roth.

The defense had argued that the state lacked evidence to show that Cynthia Roth's drowning was anything other than an accident.

The catalyst for the appeal, though, was Sullivan's ruling last month that evidence about the death of one of Roth's previous wives could be used in the trial.

Janis Roth died after falling 300 feet from a cliff while hiking with Roth in 1981. Although authorities from Skamania County, where the fall occurred, said they suspected foul play, her death was ruled accidental and Roth was paid $115,000 in insurance.

In their appeal briefs, Muenster and Cody argue that Sullivan's decision would allow evidence that would improperly influence the jury.

"The overwhelming prejudicial effect of the testimony will deprive Mr. Roth of his right to a fair trial," the two wrote. "The ruling is critical here, as the state's entire case is based on speculation and innuendo . . ."

Roth's attorneys tomorrow will ask that the appellate court review its previous request to Sullivan to throw out the murder charge. They also are asking for a stay in the Superior Court proceedings during the appeal, Cody said.

King County Senior Deputy Prosecutor Marilyn Brenneman will also be allowed to present arguments tomorrow.

If the commissioner agrees that the appellate court should review the case, the trial could be delayed anywhere from a few weeks to several months.

The commissioner could deny the request, too, which would trigger another hearing before a three-judge panel, but that timetable may still allow the trial to proceed on Feb. 24, Cody said.

A decision from the commissioner could come as early as tomorrow afternoon, or sometime next week.