In the Matter of the Personal Restraint of Gomez, the Washington Supreme Court rejected a collateral attack on a mother’s conviction for killing her child through abuse. The Court ruled that the Spanish-speaking client did not deserve a new trial even though her lawyer only spoke English and also represented the child’s father in a dependency proceeding. Perhaps lost in translation or clouded by the lawyer’s conflicting duties to the father was the fact that the mother may not have abused the child and that the child might have died because he suffered epilepsy. Finality trumped process in this case and may have kept an innocent person in prison.

Continue Reading No comprende? No problema. Washington’s Supreme Court accepts poor performance by defense lawyer who didn’t speak the same language as his client

In State v. Liu, a 5-4 majority on the Washington Suprme Court declared the the Confrontation Clause of the Sixth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution does not require that DNA tests or other hard to decipher scientific tests be presented in court by the technician who conducted the test.  These tests are not inculpatory because a juror would not understand how the data bears on the guilt or innocence of the defendant without the testimony of an expert witness.  Therefore these complicated reports are not “witness[es] against” the defendant and need not be available for confrontation by the defendant.  While the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Melendez-Diaz v. Massachusetts, 557 U.S. 305 (2009) might suggest otherwise, the Washington Court determined that the five Justice majority who signed that opinion was not really a majority because Justice Thomas also wrote an idiosyncratic concurrence. The Washington Court started counting five Supreme Court Justice signatures, but stopped at four.
Continue Reading Washington Court Starts to Count to Five, Stops at Four

In State v. Lynch, the Washington State Supreme Court confirmed that a trial court’s inclusion of an affirmative defense instruction upon an unwilling defendant violates the defendant’s Sixth Amendment rights in criminal prosecutions.
Continue Reading State Supreme Court Further Clarifies Distinction Between Casting Doubt on Elements of Charged Crimes and Affirmative Defenses