In State v. Barton, the Washington Supreme Court examined the mandate found in Article I, section 20 of the Washington State Constitution that criminal defendants “shall be bailable by sufficient sureties.” The Court interpreted the phrase to mean that a criminal defendant has the right to make bail by using a surety, i.e., a third
In the denouement of a much-publicized case, the Washington Supreme Court ordered a trial court to dismiss charges against Douglas Bauer, a man who left a loaded gun accessible to his girlfriend’s six year old child. The child took the gun to school, where it discharged and seriously injured a classmate. Bauer was charged with third degree assault for “causing” the child’s injury directly and under a statute outlawing criminal complicity. Bauer sought dismissal of the charges as a matter of law, which the trial court denied. The Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court, keeping the charges alive. In State v. Bauer, the Supreme Court reversed.
Continue Reading Washington Supreme Court Declines to Blame Gun Owner for Injuries Caused When a Child Took the Loaded Gun to School
Article by Manmeet Dhami, Summer Associate and law student at University of Washington School of Law
[Learn more about Stoel Rives’ summer program here]
According to a recent Washington Supreme Court decision, providing false information to a Sound Transit fare enforcement officer (FEO) is not punishable under Washington law. Typically, making a false or misleading statement to a public servant is considered a misdemeanor. However, in State of Washington v. K.L.B., the Washington Supreme Court found that individuals cannot be held liable for false statements made to an FEO because FEOs are not public servants.
In State v. Andre Luis Franklin, five State Supreme Court justices reversed a defendant’s convictions after concluding the trial court erred in excluding evidence to further the defendant’s “other suspect” defense. The defendant, Franklin, was in pseudo-relationships with two different women, Hibbler and Fuerte, and the women had a history of jealousy with one another. Soon after Franklin loaned some money to Fuerte, Fuerte began receiving emails from an unknown email address threatening to post compromising pictures of her online. These emails were purportedly from Franklin.
Continue Reading State v. Franklin – State Supreme Court Divided Over Discretion
In State v. Johnson, the Washington Supreme Court provided two rulings. First, it unanimously held that a charging document does not need to provide legal definitions of all the concepts within it to provide constitutionally sufficient notice to the defendant. Second, it ruled 7-2 that a jury must only be given a general criminal law definition of “reckless” to convict a defendant if it is also instructed as to the particular form of recklessness charged. Justice Gordon McCloud assumed her now customary role of dissenter to the second ruling.
In a unanimous decision, the Washington Supreme Court clarified Washington’s Criminal Court Rules by holding that it is within the trial court’s discretion to provide preliminary rulings on jury instructions during trial. The Court then affirmed Ronald Mendes’s second degree murder conviction after rejecting his argument that he was “compelled” to testify in his defense.
Continue Reading Discretion Prevails: Trial Courts May Rule on Jury Instructions When Asked…or Not
Under ER 404(b), evidence of prior bad acts is not admissible to show conformity with those acts. In 2008, the Legislature carved out an exception to ER 404(b) by passing a bill that allowed evidence of prior sex crimes to be admitted in criminal sex cases. But in 2012, the Washington Supreme Court held that this statute was unconstitutional.
Gower involves a bench trial that took place in 2009, after the Legislature’s ER 404(b) exception was in effect, but before it was held unconstitutional. The State had charged Gower with a series of sex crimes relating to sexual contact with his minor step-daughter, SEH. At trial, the State sought to admit the testimony of one of Gower’s other minor children, CM, and the trial court admitted CM’s testimony, stating that the evidence would have been inadmissible under ER 404(b), but was admissible under the statutory exception. SEH also testified to her own experience at the hands of Gower.
Continue Reading State v. Gower: Anything is Reasonably Probable
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.
Continue Reading State v. Garcia, Jr. – Not Enough Evidence for First Degree Kidnapping Conviction
In State v. Pena Fuentes, the State Supreme Court again condemned “the odious practice of eavesdropping on privileged communication between attorney and client” in criminal matters, as it had previously done in State v. Cory, 62 Wn.2d 371, 382 P.2d 1019 (1963). Though the Cory court held that such misconduct is presumably prejudicial, in Pena Fuentes the court further held that the presumption is rebuttable if the State can prove the absence of prejudice beyond a reasonable doubt.
Continue Reading These Walls Shouldn’t Have Ears: State Supreme Court “Appalled” by the Need to Remind State that It May Not Eavesdrop on Private Conversations Between a Defendant and His/Her Counsel
State of Washington v. Bao Dinh Dang [Wash. Sup. Ct. No. 87726-2]
The Washington Supreme Court issued a unanimous opinion that held that persons acquitted of a crime by reason of insanity and granted conditional release under medical supervision may only have their conditional release terminated if the court determines they are dangerous. Without a dangerousness finding, a court may not commit an acquitted person into a mental health facility solely on the basis that the person is not abiding by the terms and conditions of release. This should be a welcome decision for mental health advocates seeking to erode the assumption that the mentally ill are inherently dangerous or violent.…
At issue in State vs. Byrd is whether a police officer violated federal and state privacy rights by searching a defendant’s purse incident to arrest after the defendant was secured in a police car and the purse was left on the ground outside the vehicle. The Washington Supreme Court determined that the search did not violate either the United States or Washington Constitutions because the purse was part of the defendant’s person and therefore subject to warrantless search incident to a lawful arrest.
Four justices dissented, arguing the search violated state constitutional protections. Justice Gonzales concurred with the majority, but wrote separately to suggest the search was invalid because the officer lacked probable cause to make the arrest itself. …
Continue Reading A Purse Is Part of a Person, Even When the Person is Locked in a Police Car and the Purse is Not