It was a big day for the state high court, which handed down five decisions today, along with a healthy dose of dissension.

The Supreme


The State Supreme Court Rules


It was a big day for the state high court, which handed down five decisions today, along with a healthy dose of dissension.

The Supreme Court rulings begin with the case of Kim Michael Smith, convicted of being a sexually violent predator in 2002. Smith petitioned the court for a hearing for release in 2004 based on his age, basically asking for the chance to argue that he is too old to be violent anymore. In 2005, the state passed a law saying that age alone wasn't enough to get such a hearing, so his hearing was revoked. But the court unanimously ruled that because he filed for the hearing before the law was enacted, he still had to be given the chance to argue his case.

The second case regards another sexually violent predator case, that of Andre Young. Young was involuntarily committed as sexually violent by the state in 1991. In 2001 he initiated proceedings to review his case for possible release, but then refused to submit to a mental evaluation by a state expert witness and coinciding video deposition. He was found in contempt and the case made its way to the Supreme Court where the justices ruled 6-3 that Young was indeed in contempt.

In his dissent, Justice Richard Sanders argues that someone's status as a sexually violent predator is a civil matter, not a criminal one, though their acts as a predator are criminal. Accordingly, he says, a civil court rule stating civil courts lack authority to hold someone in contempt for failing to submit to a mental or physical examination should apply.


Yakima attorney George Trejo was given a suspension after determining he knowingly turned a blind eye to an assistant using money from a trust account, cash set aside for a settlement claim, to write herself checks to cover personal debts. After five instances of failing to pay his client's settlement out on time, he was put up for discipline by the Washington State Bar Association. The State Supreme court has final say in these matters and gave him a three months suspension with a 7-2 decision.

The two dissenting justices say Trejo could not have been expected to notice the shortfalls as his support staff was responsible for such things. According to the dissenting opinion, again authored by Sanders: "Trejo should not be punished so severely for his naiveté that led to his victimization."

In 1997 Felipe Ramos and his ex-brother-in-law Mario Medina confronted Ramos' ex-wife's boss Joe Collins at a King County Motel 6 over a dispute about the ex-wife's job. Collins was shot in the head and killed during the exchange. Both men were charged with first and second degree murder and convicted on the lesser charge. But because of confusion over the two charges during jury deliberations, the convictions were vacated and the state sought to retry both men for first degree murder as they were not formally acquitted on those charges. The issue wound its way through the courts and today the state high court ruled 8 - 1 that the men can be put on trial once again for first degree murder.

Sanders, back with a third dissent, argues that once the two men got their acquittals for second degree murder, they were done being charged for that crime. Game over.

And finally, in 1997, Dale Schwab and Aaron Beymer, two homeless men in Everett, beat up Ernest Sena under an overpass. The two men stole his money, got drunk and returned to where Sena lay, still passed out. Beymer admitted to bashing in his head with a rock then dragging him to train tracks and covering him with debris. Schwab just observed. Then both men waited until a train came and watched it sever the body. Both were convicted, but in Schwab's case he was convicted on first degree manslaughter and second degree murder. An appeal determined that Schwab's two convictions constituted double jeopardy and both were vacated. Today the Supreme Court ruled 6 - 3 that the Snohomish County Superior Court can legally reinstate the manslaughter conviction without the murder charge.

Two dissents were filed. One was by Sanders, who argued that a vacated conviction, regardless of why it was vacated, cannot be "magically revived after reversal of the remaining conviction." Justice Mary Fairhurst signed on with Sanders.

Justice James Johnson filed a concurring dissension arguing that while he agrees with Sanders, he thinks the courts should have questioned whether or not the conviction was rightly overturned in the first place.

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