Saturday, November 22, 2008

The following cases of note were decided recently in Washington's high courts:

By: Dena Alo-Colbeck

Supreme Court:

State v. Warren: The Court held that comments by the prosecutor that suggested that the defendant did not enjoy the benefit of reasonable doubt constituted prosecutorial misconduct, in that the comments were improper and prejudicial to the defendant. The Court also found improper comments by the same prosecutor in a related trial with the same defendant that presumed facts not in evidence and commented on the role of defense counsel. However, the Court found that the curative instructions given by the trial court eliminated any prejudice that may otherwise have been caused by these comments. The Court further held that an order barring contact between the defendant and his wife for life was not an abuse of discretion despite the fact that the order was with a class of person different from the crime victim, because in this case the defendant has a history of domestic violence against his wife, and his wife's testimony in the trial had been instrumental in convicting the defendant, so that protecting the wife was in fact directly related to the crimes in this case. A copy of the decision may be viewed online at:

Division One Court of Appeals:

State v. Hall: The Court ruled that the defendant's double jeopardy protection was not violated when he was convicted of multiple courts of tampering with witnesses, as the unit of prosecution for the crime of witness tampering is "any one instance of attempting to induce a witness or a person to do any of the actions set forth in RCW 9A.72.120." A copy of the decision may be viewed online at:

State v. Chang: The Court held that a warrantless search of the defendant's car properly came under the protective search exception to the warrant requirement when officers had information that there was a gun in the defendant's car and the defendant was only a couple of strides from the vehicle when he was detained. The Court further held that there was sufficient evidence to support a conviction for possession of stolen property (access devices) based upon checks that were in the defendant's possession, despite the exception in the law for paper instruments, because the State charged the defendant with possession of stolen property based on the account numbers on the checks, which defendant had used to illegally obtain money from the victims' accounts. A copy of the decision may be viewed online at:

Division Two Court of Appeals:

Aberdeen v. Regan: The Court held that a revocation of probation based on a condition that the defendant have no criminal law violations does not require a finding of proof beyond a reasonable doubt, simply evidence "sufficient to reasonably satisfy the court that the defendant violated a condition of probation." A copy of the decision may be viewed online at:

Division Three Court of Appeals:

State v. Beito: The Court held that the defendant was seized when, as a passenger in a vehicle, the officer stood outside his door, blocking his exit, told him he was not free to leave, and continued to stand outside his door while conducting a warrant check over the radio. At the time, the Court found that the officers had no reasonable articulable suspicion that the defendant had committed or was about to commit a crime or that he was a threat to anyone's safety, the seizure was in violation of his right to privacy, and all evidence obtained as a result of the search, including evidence of warrants out for the defendant's arrest found during the warrant check conducted while the officer stood outside the defendant's door must be suppressed, and the case dismissed. A copy of the decision may be viewed online at:

State v. Grogan: The Court held properly admissible statements child hearsay statements, ruling that the trial court properly found the child competent, and the statements met both the statutory requirements and the Ryan reliability factors. The court further found that the defendant's statements to the police were admissible when the defendant had voluntarily surrendered himself for an interview and polygraph, was told he was free to leave at any time, and was allowed to leave when he first asked to do so. A copy of the decision may be viewed online at:

Friday, November 21, 2008

Judge accused of being rude, undignified


SEATTLE – At a hearing at the King County Courthouse Wednesday, members of the state Commission on Judicial Conduct listened to testimony against King County Judge Judy Eiler.

In 2005, Eiler was found guilty by the commission of being rude and undignified on the bench and sent to get more training. Now she's facing the same allegations again.

In an unusual role reversal, a parade of witnesses who once testified before Eiler came to testify about her Wednesday.

"I just felt she was very rude, very curt," Tammy Mazanti said." Very mean."

Eiler has been a King County District Court judge since 1992, primarily overseeing cases in civil and traffic court.

Members of the Washington State Commission on Judicial Conduct on Wednesday listened to audio tapes of Eiler on the bench. In addition, numerous witnesses and defendants from Eiler's past court proceedings described behavior they found rude, sarcastic and intimidating.

"I stood there and she was getting the papers ready and I was smiling because I was trying to be pleasant," Kris Mazanti said. "And she asked me do I think this is funny, and I said no, and she said well wipe that smirk off your face and I was stunned."

Several lawyers who've worked on cases before Eiler also testified they believe her behavior taints the judicial system.

Eiler's attorney said her client has a difficult job hearing 10 to 20 cases a day and pointed out that it's not a judge's job to be warm and fuzzy.

"It's a tough job," Anne Bremner said. "And when you take little snapshots of little parts of cases and what somebody felt when they lost and they have to come into court on it, I think that's inappropriate."

Given that she's been found guilty of rude and inappropriate behavior before, the commission could remove Eiler from the bench.

Testimony could continue through Friday. The commission will likely have a decision by early December.

Troopers checking for seatbelt offenders at night


SEATTLE – Beware! If you're driving at night and you're not buckled up, state troopers will track you down.

For the next three weeks, 60 police agencies across the state are conducting extra seatbelt crackdowns at nighttime.

The Washington State Patrol says there's a very good reason they are targeting seatbelt offenders at night.

The goal is to catch seatbelt offenders at nighttime because they tend to be different from drivers caught during the day.

"The people who chose not to wear their seatbelt at night tend to be involved in other criminal activity," said Sgt. Harlan Jackson, Washington State Patrol. "So we might not be just pulling over someone for a seatbelt, that might lead to someone driving under the influence."

From 2001 to 2007, Washington State saw more than 3,200 vehicle crash deaths – about 1,500 during the day, and 1,600 at night.

It may seem almost equal but the death rate at night is four times as high when you factor in how many people are on the road.

Studies show wearing your seatbelts can reduce that risk by 70 percent.

Washington State has one of the highest compliance rates in the country, but they estimate about 4 percent of drivers or passengers aren't wearing their seatbelt and that comes out to almost 240,000 lives that could be saved.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Local fish vendor charged with two felonies


A Bellevue-based fish vendor accused of mislabeling thousands of pounds of fish as halibut caught in the United States and Russia, and then selling the fish for profit to consumers, was charged with two felony counts in documents filed in U.S. District Court in Seattle Monday.

Kevin D. Steele, president and owner of Mallard Cove Resources, was charged with the false labeling and sale of fish -- a violation of the Lacey Act -- and the introduction of misbranded foods.

Documents filed by the U.S. Attorney's Office allege that over a three-year period beginning in 2003, Steele sold thousands of pounds of fish labeled as halibut -- a prized and expensive fish -- that was actually a species imported from China known as Greenland turbot, also referred to as Greenland halibut.

Steele, the documents said, repackaged the turbot and labeled it as halibut caught in the U.S. or Russia, before selling the fish at prices for the more expensive product.