June 28, 2001 11:00 pm
Liysa Ann King-Northon ().
Liysa Ann King-Northon ().

By Gary Fletcher

Observer Staff Writer

ENTERPRISE Liysa King-Northon will claim self-defense in her murder trial, scheduled to begin July 16, her attorneys said.

As many as 30 witnesses from Hawaii to Connecticut will be called, a defense attorney said Thursday. The woman is accused of killing her husband, Chris Northon, 44, on a camping trip at a Lostine canyon campground last October.

In front of an audience of 11 Thursday, defense attorneys did not pursue Wallowa County Circuit Court Judge Phillip Mendigurens offer to grant a continuance of the trial.

Mendiguren was hearing several motions in the case Wednesday.

The judge decided to wait until the trial to rule whether to allow testimony by others that King-Northon told them about past physical abuse by her husband.

Regarding the defenses motion to admit expert testimony regarding pattern, practice or history of abuse... Mendiguren said that a diagnosis of the defendant having battered wife syndrome would first be necessary.

With no such diagnosis at this time, Mendiguren denied the admission of expert testimony on the subject.

Defense attorney Wayne Mackeson of Portland had argued that a diagnosis isnt necessary to establish an abuse pattern. He contended that there was no such thing as battered wife syndrome to explain behaviors and reactions. The syndrome is not in the professionals manual of diagnoses, he said.

There doesnt have to be a syndrome. We dont need any fancy labels, he said during a recess. Our defense is simple, self-defense. Our client did what she had to do at the campground.

Wednesday, the defense attorneys had asked for a continuance to give them time to review evidence finally released to them Wednesday.

However, the defense wanted King-Northon, 38, released and the state to reimburse $1,000 for each of 20 witnesses subpoenaed from Hawaii, where the couple had a home. Airline tickets have already been purchased and motel rooms booked.

The judge found that the prosecution had not intentionally delayed for nine months the release of evidence to the defense. He ruled that King-Northon, a freelance photographer, will remain in the Umatilla County jail in Pendleton.

Mendiguren ruled that evidence of alleged previous marijuana use by the deceased, Chris Northon, simply as a reflection of his character, could not be used.

A residual amount of marijuana and extremely high levels of Valium were detected in Chris Northons blood, lead prosecutor Steven Briggs said.

Mendiguren will not allow the state to use the testimony of witnesses of statements allegedly made to them by Northon as an indication that he did not want to go on the Lostine camping trip.

The prosecution contended that if the defendant planned and insisted on the trip then she must not have been afraid of him.

Such testimony might be admitted for different reasons than posed in the motions, Mendiguren said.