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Isenberg trial date set

Staff Writer | August 5, 2020 1:09 AM

Prosecution lines up witnesses

Laurcene “Lori” Isenberg will face jury trial for premeditated murder on Jan. 5, 2021, Judge Scott Wayman announced Tuesday. The pre-trial conference will take place Dec. 18.

The high-profile case has been repeatedly postponed due to pandemic-related complications in jury selection. A July order from the Idaho Supreme Court suspended all criminal jury trials until Sept. 14, which caused a scheduling conflict between the plaintiff and defense.

In 2019, Isenberg pleaded guilty to defrauding the North Idaho Housing Coalition, a nonprofit for needy families, of $570,000. In January, Isenberg was indicted for premeditated murder in the death of her husband, Larry Isenberg, who died in suspicious circumstances in 2018.

Isenberg maintains that Larry fell from the couple’s boat into Lake Coeur d’Alene on Feb. 13, 2018. The coroner’s report says Larry died of an overdose of Benadryl.

The defense has filed multiple motions to postpone the trial until December and Wayman has denied those motions. But the trial was pushed back to January due to the Supreme Court order and availability of the prosecution.

In an email to The Press, Kootenai County Prosecuting Attorney Barry McHugh said his office is “ready to go forward when the trials start.”

McHugh was proceeding with a plan to use North Idaho College’s Schuler Auditorium for jury selection in order to comply with “social distancing” requirements, but the plan was suspended due to the trial hold.

“The Supreme Court order has resulted in trial continuances for all cases that might have had a trial date during the time when jury trials were suspended, including Isenberg,” McHugh said.

McHugh declined to speculate on issues that may be raised by the delay, such as possible violations of the Sixth Amendment.

The Sixth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution reads: “In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district wherein the crime shall have been committed.”

Jed Nixon, Isenberg’s attorney, agreed with the delays.

“We need to take all precaution given the seriousness of COVID,” he said. “If someone had a positive test result, think what that would do for the process.”

Additional documents filed by the prosecution reveal their intent to potentially call on dozens of witnesses, mostly from the Coeur d’Alene area, including forensic examiners, detectives, doctors, FBI agents, reporters and digital researchers.

The expert witnesses include Dr. Stacey Hail, of Dallas, a forensic toxicology specialist, and Dr. Sally Aiken, of Spokane, who is president of the National Association of Medical Examiners.

Prosecutors filed a motion for witnesses to testify via video conference.

Isenberg is in the Kootenai County jail on a $2 million bond.