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Washington v. Witherspoon

February 22, 1991

THE STATE OF WASHINGTON, RESPONDENT,
v.
ALVIN WITHERSPOON, APPELLANT



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

Author: Alexander

Alvin Witherspoon appeals his juvenile court conviction on a charge of conspiracy to commit first degree robbery. His principal contention on appeal is that the trial court erred in failing to enter findings of fact and conclusions of law in support of its determination of guilt. We reverse the conviction and order dismissal of the charge.

Witherspoon was charged in Clallam County Juvenile Court with the crime of conspiracy to commit first degree robbery. He pleaded not guilty and the matter proceeded to trial. At trial, the State sought to show that Witherspoon had agreed to join with some companions in an effort to rob a pizza deliveryman. As a step toward the robbery, a pizza restaurant was called on the telephone and asked to deliver a pizza to an address where the robbery was to take place. The robbery was never carried out. Three of Witherspoon's companions testified at trial that Witherspoon did not participate in any of the discussions about the robbery. One companion, Dan Kimble, indicated that Witherspoon had agreed with the others to commit the robbery.

The trial court found Witherspoon guilty, and on April 17, 1989, it sentenced him to serve a sentence of 103 to 127 weeks in confinement. It did not, however, enter findings and conclusions in support of the judgment. Furthermore, the State has never submitted proposed findings to the juvenile court following Witherspoon's filing of a notice of appeal to this court. The sentence has not been stayed pending appeal.

Witherspoon makes several assignments of error. We need only discuss his contention that the trial court erred in failing to enter findings and conclusions because it is dispositive of this appeal. Witherspoon argues that the juvenile court erred by not complying with JuCR 7.11(d). That rule provides, as follows:

Written Findings and Conclusions on Appeal. The court shall enter written findings and conclusions in a case that is appealed. The findings shall state the ultimate facts as to each element of the crime and the evidence upon which the court relied in reaching its decision. The findings and conclusions may be entered after the notice of appeal is filed. The prosecution must submit such findings and conclusions within 21 days after receiving the juvenile's notice of appeal.

(Italics ours.)

The State concedes that there has been a failure to comply with this rule, but it suggests that noncompliance with the rule should not result in reversal. Witherspoon, on the

other hand, contends that he was prejudiced by the rule violation and that reversal is, therefore, compelled.

JuCR 7.11(d) is crystal clear. A juvenile court judge must enter written findings and conclusions in any case that is appealed. This rule expands somewhat on JuCR 7.11(c), which, prior to 1987, was the only juvenile court rule that addressed the necessity for entering findings and conclusions following an adjudicatory hearing in juvenile court. JuCR 7.11(c) provides:

(c) Decision on the Record. The juvenile shall be found guilty or not guilty. The court shall state its findings of fact and enter its decision on the record. The findings shall include the evidence ...


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