A man who saved himself from a possible death sentence by pleading guilty to shooting a Des Moines police officer in 2001 may rescind his plea, attorneys for Charles Champion said...

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A man who saved himself from a possible death sentence by pleading guilty to shooting a Des Moines police officer in 2001 may rescind his plea, attorneys for Charles Champion said in court this morning.

King County Superior Court Judge Anthony Wartnik denied a defense request to postpone Champion’s sentencing hearing, set for Jan. 5, and allowed Champion to consult an independent lawyer on the wisdom of changing his plea.

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“The shoulders Charles Champion stood on were made of clay,” his lead attorney, Jackie Walsh, said. “I’m not surprised he would have anxiety and fear over his future.”

For much of the 45-minute hearing in Wartnik’s courtroom this morning, King County Deputy Prosecutor Nelson Lee and Walsh snapped at each other over evidence and the names of witnesses Walsh planned to have testify at the sentencing.

Wartnik refused to order Walsh to hand over the list because, he said, if Champion is allowed to change his plea and take his case to trial, the information could be used against him. Wartnik, however, said that Walsh will likely be asked to make the list available to prosecutors at a hearing scheduled for next Wednesday.

Underwood was killed on March 7, 2001, when he pulled his patrol car over on Pacific Highway South to talk to four men. He radioed to dispatch that he recognized Champion, who was wanted on a warrant. Minutes later, Underwood was shot four times. Witnesses told police that Champion, then 18, pulled the trigger. King County prosecutors elected to seek the death penalty against him.

Christine Clarridge: 206-464-8983 or cclarridge@seattletimes.com