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Washington v. Bell

February 22, 1991

THE STATE OF WASHINGTON, RESPONDENT,
v.
EDDIE WAYNE BELL, APPELLANT



Alexander, J. Worswick, C.j., and Petrich, J., concur.

Author: Alexander

Eddie Wayne Bell was found guilty and sentenced in Pierce County Superior Court for the second degree murder of Pete Brudevold, the Mayor of Ruston. Bell appeals the conviction, assigning error to the trial court's exclusion of certain evidence regarding the victim's alleged homosexual tendencies and to its refusal to instruct the jury on the claimed defenses of justifiable and excusable homicide. We affirm.

There were no witnesses to the incident which led to the charge and Bell did not testify at trial. The State relied to a large extent on statements that Bell gave to the police following his arrest. In those statements, Bell revealed that he had gone to Brudevold's residence on January 17, 1988, in order to collect on a loan he claims to have made to Brudevold. Because Bell had been drinking, Brudevold offered to allow Bell to spend the night in a trailer located in Brudevold's backyard. Bell said that he accepted the offer and that the two men then left Brudevold's residence and headed for the trailer. Brudevold carried a flashlight and Bell carried a beer bottle.

According to Bell, as they walked to the trailer, Brudevold grabbed at Bell's crotch and attempted to kiss him. Bell said that he responded by striking Brudevold several times with the beer bottle and the flashlight and by strangling him.

Brudevold died as a result of the incident. A medical examiner testifying at trial attributed Brudevold's death to trauma to the head from a blunt object or manual strangulation.

Bell presented evidence of two experts who said that Bell was "homophobic," a condition they believed would cause

Bell to perceive that a homosexual advance upon him was a threat to his life. Another expert testified that Bell suffered from an intermittent explosive personality, which would cause him to feel threatened by any sexual contact that would question his masculinity. That expert said that Bell did not form the intent necessary to commit murder.

A fourth expert testified for the State and said that although Bell had an antisocial personality disorder and intermittent explosive personality, he was capable of forming the intent necessary to commit murder.

Bell sought to admit the testimony of nine lay witnesses. Some of these persons would have testified that Brudevold had a reputation in the community as a homosexual. Others would have testified that they knew of specific instances in which Brudevold displayed homosexual conduct. One witness was prepared to say that on a previous occasion Brudevold approached him in a manner similar to that alleged by Bell (i.e., grabbing him in the crotch). None of the proffered evidence showed that Bell was aware of Brudevold's reputation or prior conduct or that Brudevold had exhibited violent tendencies. The trial court excluded the offered testimony on grounds that it was evidence of other crimes, wrongs or acts of the victim and was, therefore, not admissible pursuant to ER 404(b). In addition, it concluded that any probative value the evidence had was outweighed by its potential for prejudice.

Bell proposed jury instructions on the defenses of justifiable and excusable homicide. The trial court refused to give these instructions, concluding that there was insufficient evidence to support their submission.

Character Evidence

Bell contends that the trial court erred in excluding the evidence of Brudevold's reputation in the community as a homosexual, as well as the evidence of specific instances of conduct. Bell's trial attorney indicated that he offered this evidence for the sole purpose of proving ...


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