SPOKANE — The man who pleaded guilty in the killing of Mackenzie Cowell has one month to ask a court — for a second time — to set side his plea.
Christopher Scott Wilson, 32, sought to withdraw the plea he entered in May 2012, in which he admitted killing the 17-year-old Wenatchee High School student in exchange for a 14-year prison sentence. He has claimed innocence since his case was closed.
Wilson filed papers in April arguing that he agreed to the plea bargain with then-Chelan County Prosecutor Gary Riesen “without an accurate understanding of the direct consequences” on the length of his sentence.
But the Washington Court of Appeals ruled Friday that his motion is groundless: “… He provides no evidence that he misunderstood what is clearly written in the plea statement he signed,” wrote Division III Chief Judge Kevin Korsmo.
Wilson has until July 8 to ask the court to reconsider.
The motion to withdraw differs from a standard appeal, in which a defendant asks a higher court to consider his case as a whole. A guilty plea forfeits that right of appeal; a motion to withdraw requires a defendant to prove his or her plea was involuntary.
He faced a charge of first-degree murder in the death of Cowell, who disappeared from downtown Wenatchee in February 2010 and was found dead on the Crescent Bar shoreline after a four-day search.
Wilson, a fellow student of Cowell’s at the Academy of Hair Design, was arrested in October 2010. Police said they found Cowell’s blood staining the carpet and underpad of his apartment at 119 Okanogan St., and genetic material matching Cowell’s blood and Wilson’s paternal DNA type on a length of duct tape recovered near Cowell’s body.
During jury selection prior to his trial, about 80 percent of juror candidates answered court questionnaires saying they believed Wilson was guilty, or had knowledge of evidence that was to be suppressed at trial. To avoid a lengthier sentence, he pleaded guilty to first-degree manslaughter, first-degree robbery for stealing Cowell’s cell phone and ring in the course of the killing, and second-degree assault for a prior attack on another woman.
Wilson had earlier rejected a plea offer that could have sent him to prison for 6 1/2 years. He remains imprisoned at Clallam Bay Corrections Center, eligible for parole in 2023. A CBS News “48 Hours” report on the case was re-aired Saturday.
Jefferson Robbins: 664-7123