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Wendy Lee Coffield, a 16-year old runaway from Pierce County, Wash., disappeared on July 8, 1982. One week later her body was found floating in the Green River, near Seattle. Coffield was strangled to death with her own pants and dumped in the water. Unfortunately, she was the first of dozens of women who would meet a similar fate for 19 years, until Gary Leon Ridgway was charged in 2001. Ridgway, a former truck painter who had been married three times and had one son, had been under the watch of local authorities for years. Now 55, he had a laundry list of past accusations that involved prostitutes. But it was not until Nov. 5, 2003 that he finally confessed to a murder roster that included 48 women, as part of a plea bargain to avoid the death penalty. On Dec. 18, 2003, in the case of State of Washington v. Gary Leon Ridgway, 01-1-10270-9 SEA, Superior Court Judge Richard Jones sentenced Ridgway to 48 consecutive life sentences to be served consecutively with no possibility of parole. Ridgway is currently jailed in the Washington State Penitentiary at Walla Walla. The Green River Killer investigation took 21 years, and King County spent more than $12 million prosecuting Ridgway, according to published reports. Managing the sheer volume of paperwork was a challenge throughout the case. More than 700,000 documents — including decaying scraps of paper, hotel receipts and notebooks full of investigators’ notes — were collected, and eventually scanned. THE PROSECUTION King County prosecutor Norman Maleng’s team included senior deputy prosecuting attorneys Jeff Baird, Patty Eakes and Brian McDonald, and deputy prosecutors Sean O’Donnell and Ian Goodhew. David Ryan, information technology director for the King County prosecutors, recalls the low-tech storage systems, photocopies and Scotch-taped receipts that made up the mountains of documents. “It’s the nature of police investigators to be fastidious organizers,” Ryan said. But when the investigation began, “computer-assisted police work and reporting were in their infancy. Information was gathered and kept on note cards and in three-ring binders.” One of the first tasks faced by the prosecutors was to process and organize all this paper. William Speros, a Cleveland-based attorney who consults in litigation management, and the King County prosecutors created a technical plan to handle the acres of data. They decided to use Summation litigation support software, from San Francisco’s Summation Legal Technologies Inc. Speros trained the prosecution team and detectives on the software, opting to maintain the investigators’ original labelling of documents in electronic format. THE DEFENSE Ridgway’s defense team was lead by Anthony Savage, a private Seattle-based attorney, and included private criminal defense lawyers Suzanne Elliott, Fred Leatherman, Eric Lindell, Dave Roberson and Michele Shaw. The King County Office of Public Defense appointed Mark Prothero and Todd Gruenhagen of Associated Counsel for the Accused, a contract nonprofit public defense organization, to help with the case. Michele Shaw spearheaded the discovery efforts for the team, and hired Seattle-based Certus Consulting Group to provide IT support for the case, starting in January, 2002. Norman Yee, Certus’ co-founder, set up a Microsoft Exchange database run out of the Certus office, with new e-mail accounts for each attorney working in scattered offices across the state. Certus trained the defense team, most of whom had never used a database before, and had to upgrade each lawyer’s office with the proper software for downloading TIFF files (all documents were digitized as TIFFs). “It was a pretty straightforward case,” Yee says, “but the attorneys were used to working with two or three boxes of documents.” None of them had ever worked on a case this large and the warehouse-full for the Ridgway case was intimidating. In fact, conversion of paper into electronic data was the biggest challenge of running the case. Because the county was funding both the prosecution and the defense, the attorneys involved were forced into cooperation in order to save taxpayer money, recalls IT chief Ryan. King County accountants wanted both sides to settle on a common platform and share subjective coding, he said. Preston, Gates & Ellis, the firm that was initially hired by the prosecutor’s office to manage document conversion, had chosen Seattle’s Chameleon Data to handle the job. After four months of working with Preston Gates, King said they decided to deal directly with Chameleon. Chameleon’s chief executive officer Derek Dohn says his company’s role was “pretty much soup to nuts.” Chameleon brought its equipment to the warehouse, a secure bunker located outside of Seattle near the Seattle/Tacoma airport, that the county had leased for the case where the documents were stored. Ridgway himself was housed in the rooms above the warehouse, under constant police supervision, while he cooperated with detectives in finding his remaining victims. It was not an easy task, nor an inexpensive job. Chameleon provided a staff of ten, working in the facility 15 hours a day, seven days a week for a year and a half to process more than 700,000 documents and make them ready for input into the Summation databases used by the prosecution and the defense. Chameleon, which also worked on Microsoft Corp.’s antitrust lawsuits, created specialized databases for the Ridgway case. The company hosted more than a half-terabyte of data on its servers to be accessed by the lawyers from both sides. Because of security concerns, the data was not kept in an online repository, however, the attorneys and investigators could access documents from their desktops. Each side could search documents securely and independently, saving the county the costs of converting documents twice. The prosecutors decided to follow the nomenclature the police had used, copying the names on every notebook, folder and tab when they entered the information into their Summation databases. The defense team also decided to use Summation, to keep costs down, recalls Yee. Certus created its own subjective coding and organized documents into general categories, such as “DNA.” This made things easier for the widespread defense team, which consisted of various private and county-appointed attorneys located around Washington state, Yee said. One challenge of the litigation was that the investigation was still in progress, and new documents were constantly being produced, Ryan says. While the case was being built against Ridgway, detectives were conducting six months of secret interviews with him to identify the remaining bodies of his victims scattered around the county. To create digital files of the influx of new documentation pouring in, King County paralegals used a Canon imageRunner digital copier outfitted with eCopy Suite, from eCopy Inc., of Nashua, N.H., to scan all new documents. Using eCopy, documents were routed to the Summation database directly from the copier, helping the team add little pieces to the huge database as necessary. STILL WORKING ON THE CASE Although Ridgway is already jailed, the investigation isn’t over. Three detectives are still checking for Ridgway’s victims in King County. “Depending on who you’re counting,” Ryan says, “we believe Ridgway could have killed as many as 60 to 90 people.” If more victims are discovered, Ridgway can be tried again and given the death penalty. Chameleon remains on the case. The six months of interviews with Ridgway produced more than 500 hours of footage on mini-DV tapes. Now Chameleon is converting that footage, as well as building a Microsoft SQL server database to manage public disclosure requirements. At the county’s request, Chameleon is producing DVDs with searchable PDF documents and video footage of interviews with Ridgway, for release to the public. Each set in the ongoing project can be purchased from the company for $2,220 plus tax, and is available to the public at the King County law library. As should be expected with such a high-profile case, Chameleon reports that it has sold copies of the materials to true-crime writers.

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