Moscow man wants to withdraw plea he killed wife

Moscow man wants to withdraw plea he killed wife
Silas Parks

LEWISTON, Idaho (AP) - A Moscow man serving at least 20 years in prison for his role in the killing of his wife and unborn child wants to withdraw his guilty pleas, saying he didn't get sufficient legal counsel prior to reaching a deal with prosecutors.

The Lewiston Tribune reports Silas B. Parks filed a motion in 2nd District Court last week to have his plea agreement tossed out.

Parks originally faced two counts of murder but pleaded guilty to two counts of voluntary manslaughter and one count of first-degree arson in 2010 as part of an agreement. Parks was 25 years old when prosecutors said he strangled or suffocated a pregnant Sarah Parks.

Silas Parks killed his wife and unborn child and then set fire to their Moscow home, prosecutors said. An autopsy found that Sarah Parks was dead when the fire started.

A new lawyer for Parks now argues his pleas were not "knowingly, voluntarily and intelligently" made as required by constitutional standards, and that the defense counsel failed to adequately investigate the cause of Sarah Parks' death prior to and during plea negotiations. Parks also alleges his attorneys failed to present testimony by a forensic pathologist and failed to bring up psychological evidence to explain Silas Parks' memory loss surrounding the deaths.

At the trial, Jeffrey M. Reynolds, a forensic pathologist for the prosecution, and Latah County Coroner Catherine M. Mabbutt determined the cause of death for Sarah Parks was suffocation or strangulation, according to court records.

But a certified forensic pathologist recently hired by the defense counsel, Jonathan L. Arden, now said Sarah Parks' cause of death should be undetermined due to the damage caused by the fire, according to the memorandum of support for the petition.

Silas Park's new lawyer, Thomas Whitney, of Moscow, said the absence of a defense witness like Arden during the proceedings leading up to the plea bargain changed the outcome of the process. Had Silas Parks known the conclusion of the prosecution's pathologist about the cause of Sarah Parks' death could be challenged, he wouldn't have entered into the plea agreement, according to documents.

Latah County Prosecuting Attorney William Thompson Jr. said he and his staff hadn't reviewed the petition but have until July 26 to respond. Second District Judge Jeff M. Brudie's decision will determine their next move.

"We'll review it and if we need to file something more with the court, we'll do it," Thompson said.

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Information from: Lewiston Tribune