A Skagit County judge delivered a big blow to the prosecution Monday in the murder trial of Hana Williams after learning prosecutors paid a key witness.
The witness was Tenssaye Woldetsadik, Hana's biological cousin, who prosecutors flew in from Ethiopia to testify about her age. He was crucial piece of the case because homicide by abuse only applies if Hana was under 16.
"You can't pay witnesses," said defense attorney Cassie Trueblood. "You can't buy them shoes, buy them jeans, you can't give them $100. And that's what the prosecutor did."
Prosecutors informed the court the payment and clothing came after the testimony.
Judge Susan Cook agreed that paying Woldetsadik without informing the court was wrong and threw out his entire testimony.
The matter is further complicated by the fact that Woldetsadik did not make his scheduled flight to return to his homeland and has since disappeared.