By Keegan Hamilton
Louis Chen, the doctor accused of stabbing to death his partner and surrogate sonin their First Hill penthouse apartment last summer, made an appearance in King County Superior Court yesterday afternoon. His attorneys sparred with prosecutors over a plan to make public a redacted version of Chen’s mental competency evaluation from Western State Hospital, and the pending murder trial was postponed while the state finishes analyzing evidence from the grisly crime scene.
Chen sported a shaved head during previous court appearances, but this time his hair was shaggy, and he wore a red prison jumpsuit. He remained silent during the proceeding, allowing his attorney Todd Maybrown to do the talking. Maybrown’s first order of business was asking Judge Ronald Kessler for a continuance, which was granted after a brief discussion.
Maybrown explained to the judge that forensic testing of evidence from the “particularly bloody [crime] scene” is still underway, although nearly 40 items have already been tested for DNA and fingerprints. Chen waived his right to a speedy trial, and the attorney said the defense likely will not be finished preparing until “late summer.” Chen’s next scheduled court appearance is now June 28.
According to court documents, numerous blood-stained knives were found in the apartment shared by Chen and his longtime boyfriend Eric Cooper, and, when a nurse from Virginia Mason Medical Center came looking for the doctor after he failed to show for his first day of work, Chen answered the door naked, covered in blood.
Chen, 39, allegedly confessed to killing both Cooper and their two-year-old son. The former was found stabbed more than 100 times. Chen is charged with two counts of aggravated first-degree murder, and he faces life in prison if convicted.
In October, Chen was ordered to undergo a mental competency evaluation at the Western State Hospital. Forensic psychologists ultimately declared him fit to stand trial, contradicting a previous diagnosis by a psychologist hired by Chen’s lawyers. Prosecutors previously expressed concern in court documents that the physician, educated at the University of Chicago and Duke University, was using his medical training to feign mental illness.
The results of the Western State Hospital report have been kept under seal, but that will likely change next week. Despite protests from Chen’s attorney, Judge Kessler announced plans to make public a partially redacted version of the report early next week.
Maybrown argued that the report contains “very specific” information about Chen’s medical history, and requested that the judge withhold certain details as suggested by Chen’s defense team. Kessler said “the court made its own redactions,” but agreed to consider the matter further. Prosecutors, who have not had access to an unredacted version of the report, asked that the full report be made public.
Ed White, the planning manager at KING-TV, was asked to come forward, and he argued on behalf of the media that the information in the Western State report is of significant interest to the public.
Kessler said he wants to “keep the redactions as minimal as possible while protecting [Chen’s] privacy rights and Sixth Amendment rights.”