Hower hearing delayed until end of January

The hearing to determine whether accused murderer Wayne Brent Hower will stand trial for the shooting of shopkeeper Alan Kono was delayed for more than a month last week as lawyers discovered certain documents had not been obtained, according to Kitsap County Superior Court records.

A lengthy hearing regarding a possible acquittal for Hower, 44, on a first-degree murder charge before Judge Leila Mills was scheduled to begin Monday, but was delayed last week after an emergency hearing was called by his defense team on Dec. 6.

According to court documents, Hower attorneys David LaCross and John O’Melveny called for the hearing after learning from a Kitsap Mental Health (KMH) representative earlier that day “records pertaining to Hower from just a few days prior to the alleged (shooting of Kono on June 23) were not provided to any counsel.”

Mills signed an order requesting KMH provide all such requested records, then scheduled the acquittal hearing for Jan. 30, since Deputy Prosecutor Kelly Montgomery notified the court that KMH staff would be on vacation for much of December.

In October, two staff examiners at Western State Hospital determined that although Hower might be competent to stand trial, they believed he was insane at the time he admittedly shot Kono in front of his market on Mile Hill Drive.

“(The experts) believe Hower was insane when he committed the crime,” Montgomery said, explaining that it has yet to be determined whether the defense has proven its case. “The state’s position is that it is the defense’s burden to prove (Hower) was insane, and we are going to hold them to that burden.”

Montgomery said that determination will be made by Judge Mills in the acquittal hearing next month, or will be left for a jury to decide at his trial, which is now scheduled to begin April 12.

A mental evaluation of Hower — who suffers from schizo-affective disorder, a hybrid of schizophrenia — was originally ordered by Judge Mills to determine his competency to stand trial after his defense attorneys entered a not-guilty plea on his behalf.

Soon, however, the attorneys changed Hower’s plea to “not guilty by reason of insanity,” indicating that he was no longer denying that he committed the shooting, but contends he was not sane when it occurred.

Montgomery said this meant Hower would still need an evaluation, but one that determined whether he was “insane or had diminished capacity” at the time of the crime, and not whether he is competent to stand trial.

Hower was arrested for shooting Kono, the longtime owner of the popular P.J.’s Market, in the head shortly after 1:20 p.m. in the parking lot of the store in plain view of several customers and passersby on June 23.

Kono, 48, was airlifted to Harborview Medical Center in Seattle, where he later died.

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