Articles Posted in Washington Supreme Court

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Brendan Taylor was charged with felony violation of a no-contact order. Before trial, Taylor offered to stipulate to the fact that a domestic violence no-contact order was in place, and that he knew of the order. The trial court rejected the stipulation, and admitted the no-contact order into evidence. The trial court reasoned that Old Chief v. United States, 519 U.S. 172 (1997) did not apply to the admission of a domestic violence no-contact order. The jury convicted Taylor, but the Court of Appeals reversed, holding that Old Chief applied, and required the trial court exclude the no-contact order from evidence. In an issue of first impression, the Washington Supreme Court concluded Old Chief did not apply, and reversed the Court of Appeals. View "Washington v. Taylor" on Justia Law

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A jury convicted petitioner Tomas Berhe of murder and assault. After the trial, juror 6 came forward, alleging that racial bias during jury deliberations influenced the verdict. The trial court denied Berhe's motion for a new trial without an evidentiary hearing, instead relying solely on written declarations prepared with the aid of counsel. The Washington Supreme Court recognized that when allegations of juror misconduct arise after the verdict, trial courts have discretion to determine whether an evidentiary hearing is necessary. “However, there are limits to that discretion, particularly in cases of alleged racial bias that deprives a defendant of his or her constitutional right to a. fair trial by an impartial jury.” In this case, the Supreme Court determined the trial court: (1) did not exercise sufficient oversight of the process, allowing counsel to taint several jurors with inappropriate questions about their deliberations; and (2) the court did not conduct a sufficient inquiry before determining that an evidentiary hearing was unnecessary. The Supreme Court therefore vacated the trial court's order denying Berhe's motion for a new trial and remanded for further inquiry and other proceedings as necessary. View "Washington v. Berhe" on Justia Law

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A drunk driver hit and disabled another vehicle, then fled. A Good Samaritan stopped to help the struck vehicle; while helping, the Good Samaritan was fatally injured when a second vehicle did not see the disabled vehicle in time to avoid striking it, pushing the disabled vehicle into the Good Samaritan, ultimately killing him. The issue this case presented for the Washington Supreme Court's review was whether the drunk driver's acts were too attenuated from the Good Samaritan's death for criminal liability to attach. The Supreme Court concluded the drunk driver's (Joshua Frahm) acts were the legal cause of the Good Samaritan's death, because those acts were criminal, cause direct harm as well as risk of further harm, and occurred close in time and location to the ultimate harm that befell the Good Samaritan. Furthermore, the Court concluded the issue of intervening, superseding cause was proper for the jury to determine as a matter of actual cause using a reasonable foreseeability standard, and that the vehicular homicide conviction was supported by sufficient evidence. Frahm's conviction was affirmed. View "Washington v. Frahm" on Justia Law

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Petitioner Shacon Barbee "was a pimp who made money from prostitutes working under his supervision." He was convicted of multiple crimes, including the sexual abuse of minors, leading organized crime, and theft. Barbee had two sentencing hearings: (1) an initial hearing in 2013; and (2) a resentencing on remand in 2017. The issue his case raised for the Washington Supreme Court's review was whether which sentencing hearing was to be used as the basis for restitution. RCW 9.94A.753(1) holds restitution had to be determined within 180 days of "the sentencing hearing." The Court of Appeals held in this case the operative "sentencing hearing" was the 2017 hearing. The Supreme Court concurred and affirmed the appellate court's judgment. View "Washington v. Barbee" on Justia Law

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A juvenile challenged his suspended manifest injustice disposition. The Court of Appeals dismissed his claim on ripeness grounds; the juvenile disagreed his claim was not yet ripe. Furthermore, the juvenile argued the trial court applied the wrong standard of proof during his sentencing hearing, and as a result, improperly imposed the manifest injustice disposition. The juvenile was convicted on two counts of unlawful imprisonment with sexual motivation, and one count of fourth degree assault without sexual motivation. Since he had no prior criminal history, the State recommended, and the trial court adopted, a manifest injustice disposition of 36 weeks' confinement to be suspended by a special sex offender disposition alternative (SSODA). The parties to this case agreed this case was moot, given the juvenile served his sentence by the time the matter reached the Washington Supreme Court. However, finding the issue presented was one of "continuing and substantial interest," the Washington Supreme Court considered the case, determining that the appropriate standard of proof, as found in controlling Washington case law, was "clear and convincing," or the civil equivalent of the criminal standard of beyond a reasonable doubt. The Supreme Court held manifest injustice dispositions suspended by SSODA are reviewable when imposed - juveniles do not need to wait for the disposition to be executed before challenging it. Therefore, the Court of Appeals' ruling to the contrary was overturned. The Court affirmed the juvenile's conviction and sentence. View "Washington v. T.J.S.-M." on Justia Law

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Leonel Romero-Ochoa was convicted by jury of burglary, unlawful imprisonment, assault, and multiple counts of rap all arising from an incident in which he broke into a woman's home, beat her, and raped her twice. At trial, Romero-Ochoa wanted to admit evidence that the victim was a U-visa applicant, which would grant her temporary legal resident status if she was the victim of a qualifying crime and helps law enforcement investigate or prosecute that crime. The trial court excluded the U-visa evidence. Romero-Ochoa argued that exclusion violated his constitutional rights to present a defense and confront witnesses. The Court of Appeals agreed and revered all but the unlawful imprisonment conviction, holding the constitutional error was harmless beyond a reasonable doubt as to that conviction but not the others. The Washington Supreme Court granted the State's petition for review, which raised only the harmless error issue. The Supreme Court reversed, finding any error excluding the U-visa evidence was harmless as to all of Romero-Ochoa's convictions. The convictions were reinstated, and the matter remanded to the Court of Appeals to consider the claim of sentencing error that was not previously reached. View "Washington v. Romero-Ochoa" on Justia Law

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David Morgan was convicted by jury of first degree assault, attempted murder and arson. A bloodstain pattern analysis performed on his clothing revealed he was in close proximity to the victim when she suffered her injuries. The question Morgan's case presented for the Washington Supreme Court's review centered on whether the warrantless seizure of his clothing, which officers concluded contained evidence, was justified by an exception to the warrant requirement. The Court of Appeal determined the State was required to establish inadvertence as a separate element, and reversed Morgan's convictions. The Supreme Court, however, held inadvertence was not a separate element required under the plain view doctrine. The Court therefore reinstated Morgan's convictions and remanded the case back to the Court of appeals for further proceedings. View "Washington v. Morgan" on Justia Law

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Time Rikat Meippen was a juvenile when he was convicted in adult court of first degree assault, first degree robbery, and second degree unlawful possession of a firearm. The trial court sentenced Meippen to the top of the standard sentencing range and imposed a firearm sentence enhancement. Several years after Meippen's sentencing, the Washington Supreme Court decided Washinton v. Houston-Sconiers, 391 P.3d 409 (2017). Meippen subsequently filed an untimely personal restraint petition (PRP), arguing that Houston-Sconiers constituted a significant and material change in the law that should apply retroactively. Even assuming Meippen could show that Houston-Sconiers was a significant, material change in the law that applied retroactively, the Supreme Court held he was not entitled to collateral relief because he did not demonstrate that any error actually and substantially prejudiced him: the trial court had the discretion to impose a lesser sentence under the Sentencing Reform Act, at the time, and instead sentenced Meippen at the top of the sentencing range. View "In re Pers. Restraint Petition of Meippen" on Justia Law

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At issue in this case was whether the Snohomish County, Washington sheriff was required to issue a concealed pistol license (CPL) to an individual whose juvenile record included adjudications for class A felonies. The Washington Supreme Court concluded: no, the sheriff was not required to issue a CPL to a person prohibited from possessing a firearm under federal law. The Court of Appeals was reversed and Barr was denied a writ of mandamus to require the Sheriff issue him a CPL. View "Barr v. Snohomish County Sheriff" on Justia Law

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Ronald Brown appealed an unpublished Court of Appeals decision affirming his exceptional sentence for two counts of first degree robbery and one count of first degree burglary. At his first sentencing hearing, the trial court decided not to impose an exceptional sentence on his original convictions. On appeal, four of his seven original convictions were vacated. Upon resentencing, the trial court exercised its discretion and imposed an exceptional sentence above the sentencing range for his remaining convictions. Brown argued the decision to impose an exceptional sentence on remand was collaterally estopped, that the exceptional sentence is the result of judicial vindictiveness, and that the State's recommendation for an exceptional sentence was the result of prosecutorial vindictiveness. The Washington Supreme Court held that collateral estoppel did not apply when a court imposed an exceptional sentence at resentencing based on the "free crime" aggravator when it chose not to impose an exceptional sentence at the first sentencing. Furthermore, the Court held that a presumption o f vindictiveness was not triggered when a judge imposes a shorter overall sentences than the original, or when a prosecutor recommends an exceptional sentence at resentencing when it did not recommend such a sentence at the original sentencing. In sum, the Supreme Court affirmed the Court of Appeals. View "Washington v. Brown" on Justia Law