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Washington v. Dodgen

filed: April 29, 1996.


Superior Court County: Snohomish. Superior Court Cause No: 94-1-01537-5. Date filed in Superior Court: 2/2/95. Superior Court Judge Signing: Paul D. Hansen.

Written by: Coleman, J., Concurred by: Baker, C.j., Agid, J.

Author: Coleman

COLEMAN, J. -- In this case we are asked to decide whether there was sufficient evidence to establish the corpus delicti of rendering criminal assistance. To do so, we must first determine the proper scope of review when a defendant fails to object to admission of his confession, moves instead to dismiss at the close of the State's case, and presents evidence on his behalf upon denial of that motion. We hold that in these circumstances, the reviewing court looks to the evidence as a whole to determine whether the corpus delicti was established. In the present case, the evidence as a whole provides sufficient independent proof that the crime charged was committed, and we affirm.

On September 29, 1994, Dwayne William Dodgen confessed to Everett Police Detective Steven Kiser that he witnessed the murder of Matt Everist and helped carry the body to its hiding spot. Dodgen described the events surrounding Everist's death as follows. Seth Weber, Anthony Crane, and Dodgen met Everist at a restaurant around 10 p.m. as they had arranged earlier that day. The four drove to the Snohomish River and walked along the river bank for almost half an hour before stopping in a remote area. Crane sprayed Everist with Capstun (mace). Weber grabbed Everist in a "sleeper hold," or choke hold, until he lost consciousness. Weber dropped him, extracted a knife from Everist's coat, and stabbed him multiple times. Weber told Dodgen, "'If you say anything about this, you get me busted, I'll kill you.'" As Weber and Crane lifted the body, Weber instructed Dodgen, who was "in a state of shock," to hold the head. Weber added, in an angry and demanding voice, "'Come on, do it.'" Dodgen held the head because he did not want anything to happen to him, and the three carried the body toward the river. Weber and Crane threw the body into a hole and

pulled a log over it. Weber threw the knife in the river.

After giving this statement, Dodgen led police officers to the site where the body was hidden. Dodgen was arrested and charged with rendering criminal assistance in the first degree pursuant to RCW 9A.76.070.*fn1 Before trial, the parties stipulated to the statement, "Everist, a 16-year-old male, was found as skeletal remains on a wooded bank near a river. The cause of his death is multiple stab wounds. The manner of death is classified as homicide."

At trial, this statement was read to the jury. The State presented the testimony of Detective Kiser, who related Dodgen's confession and identified a photograph of the site where Everist's remains were found. Dodgen did not object when evidence of his confession was presented. The State rested its case. Dodgen moved to dismiss, arguing that his confession could not be considered by the jury because the State had failed to establish the corpus delicti of the crime and that, without the confession, the evidence was insufficient to go to the jury. The trial court denied the motion.

The defense called two witnesses. Detective Gary Woodburn of the Everett Police Department testified as to Crane's version of events the night Everist was killed. Crane's statement substantially corroborated Dodgen's account. Crane's report differed only in that he recalled throwing Weber's knife in the river himself and could not remember whether Dodgen helped conceal Everist. Crane stated that Dodgen had injured his arm and had probably been unable to assist in moving the body. Todd Dalton, a friend of Crane and Weber, testified that they had described how Crane maced Everist, Weber held him in a sleeper hold, and both of them cut his throat. Crane and Weber threw the knife in the river and hid the body, telling Dodgen that "if he opened his mouth, him [sic] and his family would be ... taken care of."

The jury found Dodgen guilty as charged. He received a standard range sentence of 12 months.

We initially consider Dodgen's motion to impose sanctions and to strike the State's brief and designation of clerk's papers. The trial court entered Dodgen's judgment and sentence on February 2,1995. Dodgen filed a notice of appeal four days later and a notice of partial report of proceeding sometime after that.*fn2 Dodgen filed his opening brief on March 14. Two months later, the State filed an objection to the Notice of Partial Report of Proceeding and arranged for additional portions to be transcribed. The Court of Appeals received the transcript on May 31, 1995. Dodgen apparently did not receive a copy until August 16. The State requested and received an extension of time to file its response brief until July 31 but did not file its brief by that date.

On August 4, Dodgen filed a motion on the merits for reversal and for sanctions based on the State's failure to file a response. The State filed its brief on August 16, at the same time filing (1) a request for an extension of time to file the brief, which was granted, (2) a motion on the merits to affirm, and (3) its designation of clerk's papers. In response, Dodgen filed a motion to strike both the State's response brief and its designation of clerk's papers and again asked the court to impose sanctions. A Commissioner of this court denied both Dodgen's motion ...

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