In 1994, Cesar Sarausad drove a car slowly past Ballard High School

In 1994, Cesar Sarausad drove a car slowly past Ballard High School while Brian Ronquillo fired into a group of students, then sped off. One of the bullets hit and killed Melissa Fernandes. According to court records the murder resulted from a dispute between rival gangs 23rd Street Diablos, Sarausad’s, and the Bad Side Posse, based out of the school. A jury convicted Ronquillo and he is now serving a 52-year sentence for the murder.Sarausad argued during his trial that he had no idea Ronquillo planned to actually shoot anyone, though according to records, Ronquillo actually readied a gun while they approached the school. The prosecutor argued that Sarausad knew Ronquillo planned violence and had every intention of helping him as far as Ronquillo took it, whether that was mere fisticuffs or deadly violence–“in for a dime, in for a dollar.” On top of that, by slowing down to allow Ronquillo to fire the shots, then speeding away, Sarausad helped Ronquillo commit murder, the prosecutor argued.A jury convicted him of second-degree murder, attempted second-degree murder and second-degree assault. A judge handed down a 27-year sentence. A passenger in the car was acquitted after a jury failed to make a decision on his involvement.Eventually, an appeals court overturned Sarausad’s conviction, but today, more than 14 years after the shooting, the U.S. Supreme Court reinstated it.Sarausad repeatedly attempted to get the conviction overturned and in 2001, a federal district courtruled that the jury was unclear on what burden of proof they needed tohave to find Sarausad guilty–was mere knowledge of an assault enoughor did he have to be aware that they were going to the school to killpeople? Essentially, the district court said “in for a dime, in for adollar” is not a valid reason to convict someone of murder. Theconviction overturned, the state appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court,which today ruled 6-3 that the conviction stands. In themajority opinion, Justice Clarence Thomas, argues that even though theprosecutor erred somewhat in her “dime for a dollar” explanation ofWashington state accomplice law, the jury received additionalclarification from the judge making it sufficiently clear that theywere convicting Sarausad based on whether or not he knew about the planto start shooting. Justice David Souter (joined by JusticesJohn Paul Stevens and Ruth Bader Ginsberg) authored the dissent. Hearuges the jury was absolutely confused about the standard forconvicting someone of murder and may well have assumed that mereknowledge of a fist-fight is enough under Washington state law toconvict someone of murder if that’s where the situation ends up. Read both opinions here. [PDF]

Talk to us

Please share your story tips by emailing

More in News & Comment

File photo
As new COVID-19 variant looms, vaccination disparities linger in King County

County data shows gaps among age, geography and race.

King County Councilmember Reagan Dunn
King County Councilmember Dunn will challenge Rep. Kim Schrier for U.S. Congress seat

The current County Councilmember would be following in his late mother’s footsteps

Garbage at the Cedar Hills Regional Landfill in Maple Valley. FILE PHOTO
King County and Port of Seattle to collaborate on waste-to-fuel study

The study is aimed at identifying logistics of developing aviation fuel out of municipal garbage.

file photo
Department of Health announces QR code verification program to prove vaccination status

WA Verify is intended to make vaccine verification simpler and more efficient.

Patti Cole-Trindall
King County Executive appoints Patti Cole-Tindall as interim sheriff

Cole-Tindall has a background in the sheriff’s office and county government.

Elaine Simons, former foster mother of Jesse Sarey, addresses a crowd outside the Maleng Regional Justice Center on Aug. 24, 2020, moments after Auburn Police Officer Jeff Nelson was formally charged with second-degree murder and first-degree assault in the May 31, 2019, shooting death of 26-year-old Sarey in front of a north Auburn convenience store. File photo
Jesse Sarey’s family wants people to know who the real Jesse was

He was killed by Auburn police officer Jeffrey Nelson in 2019.

A Snoqualmie Officer was involved in a shooting Tuesday night, Nov. 16. Photo courtesy of the Bellevue Police Department.
Man killed by Snoqualmie Police was homeless, living in car

The 33-year-old man who was killed by a Snoqualmie police officer late… Continue reading

Mid-afternoon traffic on northbound Interstate 5 on Nov. 22 near Everett. Dan Bates/The Herald
Thanksgiving traffic forecast is heavier than pre-pandemic

Drivers and ferry riders could be in for long waits, depending on when they go.

Comparison map between current district map and proposed draft. (Screenshot from King County’s website)
King County proposes redistricting map, asks for feedback from public

Public invited to comment at November 30 public hearing.

The Washington State Redistricting Commission held a public meeting over Zoom on Monday night to draw the final legislative and congressional district boundaries. Most of the five-hour session was spent in "caucus meetings" which were unavailable to the viewing public. (Washington State Redistricting Commission)
Bipartisan commission fails to draw new political boundaries

For the first time in state history, the Supreme Court will define new congressional and legislative districts.

Homeless encampment in a wooded area in Auburn on Aug. 27, 2021. Photo by Henry Stewart-Wood/Sound Publishing
What the history of homelessness in our region can teach us about our current crisis

A talk with the author of “Skid Road: On the Frontier of Health and Homelessness in an American City.”

courtesy of PropertyShark
State’s richest zip codes are all in East King County, according to home value study

Medina zip code ranks among top 10 most affluent in the nation.