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'Not a failure at all': Former Pasco police officer's high profile attorney reflects on mistrial

John Henry Browne has represented criminals from serial killer Ted Bundy to the "Barefoot Bandit." He's also represented Richard Aguirre from the start.

SPOKANE, Wash. — John Henry Browne is one of the best-known criminal defense attorneys in the world, and is based in the Pacific Northwest.

He has represented criminals from serial killer Ted Bundy to Colton Harris-Moore, also known as "The Barefoot Bandit" to Benjamin Ng, who was one of the killers in the 1983 Wah Mee massacre in Seattle.

John Henry Browne defending Richard Aguirre

Browne is currently defending Richard Aguirre, the former Pasco police officer who is facing murder charges.

Richard Aguirre is charged with first-degree murder for the death of 27-year-old Ruby Doss. Her body was found near the old Playfair Horse tracks in Spokane in 1986. She had been beaten and strangled.

Aguirre was previously charged with her murder in 2015 but it was dismissed in 2017 due to a lack of evidence. He was being tried again for the murder because Spokane County prosecutors believe they had evidence needed to convict him.

A judge granted a mistrial in the case on Thursday. A new trial date is set for March 7, 2022.  

In the courtroom in late November, December 2021

The state argued, the victim was in the fight of her life. And that she died at the hands of Aguirre.

"Was she already dead when he left her or was she in the process of dying?" Spokane County prosecutor Stefanie Collins said. "Whichever is the case, it's the actions of this man that ended her life."

Browne, Aguirre's defense attorney, said if Aguirre was the killer, his DNA would have been all over the victim. Not just on a condom found at the scene.

"You can't be in a fight without leaving DNA on somebody," Browne said. "Purple leg warmers, red leg warmers, blue socks, white socks, underpants--where there was DNA found--was NOT Mr. Aguirre's.”

The prosecutor acknowledged there was unidentified DNA in the victim's waste band. But he suggested an explanation for it.

"She reluctantly sold sex for a living," Collins said. "We have no idea when the DNA got onto her waist band. But we do know when that condom was left there. commensurate with the time of her death."

Still, the prosecutor maintained Aguirre acted with intent and murdered Doss when he did not get what he wanted. Then, he tried to cover up evidence at the scene.

On Thursday, the jury said they would not be able to reach a verdict in a reasonable amount of time. The defense had the option of sending jurors back, but opted for a mistrial. 

In court, KREM 2 overheard Aguirre tell Browne that he "dropped the ball."

After court was let out, KREM 2 asked Browne if Aguirre was happy with his work to which he replied, “he better be.” 

"A hung jury is not a failure by any means," Browne said. "I guess God's plan is not for me to retire."

Aguirre’s new trial date is set for March 7, 2022.

Previous court appearances for Aguirre

Aguirre was a 26-year veteran with the Pasco Police Department before he was put on leave when a sexual assault charge surfaced in 2015. He then resigned when Spokane Police matched his DNA to DNA found at the murder scene of Ruby Doss.

In 2015, he faced numerous criminal charges including murder, rape, voyeurism and witness tampering. He was acquitted of all charges.

John Henry Browne's career in the Pacific Northwest

Browne has represented people charged with serious offenses in state and federal court for 40 years.

In an interview with our sister station in Seattle in 2016, Browne was asked how can he defend people who are so evil? He said that is a very common question.

"I've represented so many people who are nice, who are innocent," Browne said. "I don't defend the crime, I defend the person." 

He released a memoir in 2016 called, "Devil's Defender: My Odyssey Through American Criminal Justice from Ted Bundy to the Kandahar Massacre."

In the book, he detailed what it was like working with some of his most high profile clients.

"I didn't believe people were born evil until I met Ted Bundy," Browne said in the interview with KING 5. "But the good news is, I don't think I ever represented anyone else like that."

Here's a list of some of Browne's most publicized clients:

  • Ted Bundy, a serial killer who kidnapped, raped and murdered numerous young women and girls during the 1970s and possibly earlier
  • Robert Bales, the U.S. soldier accused of murdering 16 Afghan citizens (mostly women and children) in an incident known as the Kandahar massacre
  • Colton Harris-Moore, went on a two-year cross country burglary spree which included stolen cars, boats and planes -- some of the crimes allegedly committed while he was barefoot
  • Benjamin Ng, a killer in the 1983 incident known as the Wah Mee massacre in Seattle in 1983.
  • David Wayne Kunze, a murder suspect who was the first man ever convicted based on forensic ear print evidence. Browne helped overturn the case.

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