Accused murderer Jonathan Douglas Shaw saw his trial continue until the next jury term after Flathead District Court Judge Dan Wilson ruled Wednesday that a delayed mental health evaluation could leave prosecutors with no time to fix their case.
Authorities arrested Shaw after a deadly shootout in the parking lot of Fuel Fitness in Kalispell nearly a year ago that ended after a gym-goer pulled a gun from his car and shot Shaw, according to court documents. Matthew Hurley, an employee of the fitness center, was killed in the shooting. Shaw and a patron of the gym, identified as William Keck, suffered injuries.
After the shooting, Shaw remains in the county jail on $1 million bond. He pleaded not guilty to charges of premeditated murder and attempted premeditated murder in Flathead County District Court in October 2021.
In June, Shaw’s lawyer, Liam Gallagher, indicated that he would continue his defense around a developmental disability or mental illness or disorder that left Shaw without the state of mind necessary for the charges of premeditated and attempted murder. A mental health evaluation was scheduled for mid-August, but was later postponed.
During a Sept. 7 status hearing, Deputy District Attorney John Donovan told Wilson that as of this morning, the evaluation was scheduled for Sept. 8-9. With Shaw’s trial set to begin on September 19, he requested a postponement.
If the evaluation gives the green light to the mental health defense, prosecutors will have to prepare and likely want their own evaluation done, Donovan said. He also floated — but quickly backed off — the idea of the judge sanctioning Gallagher and Shaw for failing to comply with disclosure by impeding that defense.
“Given the schedule of the currently scheduled assessment, [the] the defendant cannot fulfill that duty unless he does so on the very eve of trial,” Donovan wrote in his motion and argued to Wilson.
When Wilson rejected the idea of a penalty, Donovan clarified and said he only wanted a continuance.
BUT GALLAGHER took offense to Donovan’s suggestion that the defense was at fault. He accused Donovan of failing to arrange a mental health evaluation for the prosecution in the months after the substance of Shaw’s defense was revealed.
“[Donovan] has had this information for three months,” Gallagher said. “He’s done nothing but sit back and come to me.”
“We’re ready for a lawsuit,” Gallagher added.
However, Wilson disagreed and noted that without Gallagher’s assessment, a key piece of information is missing. Wilson also made arguments during the pre-conference in July where the current scenario was discussed.
All parties then agreed that if a mental health defense evaluation was returned, then the prosecution would have time to organize its own evaluation of Shaw, which would likely result in a continuance, Wilson said.
“Maybe your memory is better than mine,” Gallagher said.
“I actually have a transcript,” Wilson replied.
The back-and-forth was one of several as Wilson and Gallagher argued over the latter’s objection to continuing.
“He doesn’t want the sanction, so why are you using the court’s time to argue about a motion that’s not on the table,” Wilson fired at Gallagher at one point, moments later describing the defense attorney as having “an excitable disposition to accept legal arguments as personal attacks.”
Despite the heated arguments, Wilson initially indicated that he considered the prosecution’s request premature. Why not wait for the assessment and go from there, he asked. If Gallagher could proceed with his defense, prosecutors could study the results and decide what to do then.
WILSON’S MIND changed after questioning Gallagher about the expected turnaround time for Shaw’s evaluation results.
The judge began by pinning Gallagher on the circumstances under which he would turn over the information, which Gallagher said was when he would choose to pursue mental health protection. Wilson noted that the lawyer could wait until the eleventh hour.
“You said a reasonable amount of time, and I’m trying to understand what that means to you,” he said.
“Give me a few days, let me sleep,” Gallagher replied. “Let me talk to my client.”
Wilson pressed Gallagher to commit to a date, but the defense attorney refused.
“I don’t think I’ll ever make that commitment,” Gallagher said.
When Wilson asked if he could wait until prosecutors finished their case to make a decision on his defense, Gallagher said he believed he could.
That proved to be enough for Wilson, although Gallagher went on to claim that Donovan may have requested his own evaluation in the coming weeks and months.
“If your position is that you have no duty until the state rests, it seems that under the circumstances the state would not be able to make a rational decision,” Wilson said.
The judge found that reason enough to rule on the motion for a continuance — and to side with prosecutors.
A new pretrial hearing in the case has already been scheduled for January 4, and the trial will continue after that date. Both manslaughter and attempted manslaughter carry a maximum sentence of up to 100 years behind bars. Additional time — between two and 10 years — can be added because of the use of a firearm.
News Editor Derrick Perkins can be reached at 758-4430 or [email protected]