In State v. Garcia, Jr., No. 88020-4, the State Supreme Court unanimously reversed the defendant’s first degree kidnapping and second-degree kidnapping convictions and remanded for a new trial of those convictions, but affirmed the defendant’s criminal trespass conviction.
The defendant, Phillip Garcia, Jr., believed he was involved in a car chase after hearing gun shots coming from other vehicles on a highway. Garcia eventually abandoned his vehicle and ran to a gas station to seek help. Upon learning the gas station was closed, Garcia broke into the gas station with a cinder block, but fled after hearing he triggered the station’s alarm. Garcia then went to homes nearby, and ended up at the home where the victim was asleep. Garcia entered the home through an unlocked door, then spoke with and remained with the victim for two hours before one of Garcia’s friends picked him up.
The State charged Garcia with first degree kidnapping based on his interactions with the victim, and first degree criminal trespass and burglary in the second degree for breaking into the gas station. The State successfully excluded Garcia’s statements to the victim as hearsay, and also introduced a police report containing hearsay statements from Garcia’s previous burglary conviction. A jury convicted Garcia of all three charges, and the Court of Appeals affirmed. Garcia appealed, arguing there was insufficient evidence to support the kidnapping charge and that the trial court’s above evidentiary rulings were erroneous.
In a unanimous opinion authored by Justice Wiggins, the State Supreme Court reversed the first degree kidnapping charge. The court held that while Garcia abducted the victim with intent, the State failed to provide sufficient evidence to prove each of the alternative means the State argued for which abduction was done: to 1) hold the victim as a shield or hostage; 2) facilitate burglary; and 3) inflict extreme emotional distress on the victim. As to the first, because “shield” and “hostage” were not defined in the statute, and also because there were no clear interpretations in Washington case law, the court relied on interpretations in other states and held that “no reasonable jury could have found beyond a reasonable doubt that Garcia intended to hold Wilkins as a hostage or shield.” The court held the same with regard to the extreme emotional distress prong.
The court also reversed the second degree burglary charge based on the State’s use of Garcia’s previous felony for dishonesty, holding that the trial court abused its discretion in admitting the felony and that such an error was not harmless as there was a reasonable probability the error materially affected the outcome.
The court upheld the criminal trespass conviction, holding that while the trial court erroneously excluded the victim’s testimony that included Garcia’s hearsay statements, such an error was not prejudicial because the victim did not testify about either the burglary or trespass charges.