Superior Court County: King. Superior Court Cause No: 93-1-04779-3 & 93-1-04778-5. Date filed in Superior Court: 1/18/94. Superior Court Judge Signing: Joan DuBuque.
Written by: Ellington, J., Concurred by: Webster, J., Becker, J.
ELLINGTON, J. -- Charles and Nalen Williams appeal their convictions for felony murder, arguing that they were entitled to separate trials and to a "no duty to retreat" jury instruction. Finding that the trial court erred by failing to instruct the jury on the duty to retreat, we reverse and remand for a new trial.
On October 14, 1990, Joseph Wade suffered a fatal head injury. In February of 1993, June Kessler called the police and implicated Charles and Nalen Williams in Wade's death. Kessler is the mother of Nalen's child.
Charles and Nalen waived their rights and gave signed statements. Each brother claimed self defense but implicated the other brother as the one who struck the fatal blow. The State charged each brother with felony murder predicated on second degree assault.
Charles and Nalen moved for severance, arguing that their defenses were mutually antagonistic and that their statements could not be redacted without prejudice. The
court denied this motion and redacted each statement, removing any references to the non-declaring codefendant. After Charles and Nalen testified, their complete statements were admitted into evidence.
Charles testified that Wade knocked at the door of Charles' residence on October 14, 1990. Wade appeared intoxicated and asked to speak with a "Herbert Hamon." Charles told Wade that no such person resided at that address and Wade departed. Charles then became concerned that Wade may have been looking for a drug dealer for whom Charles worked. Charles ran out into the street and asked Wade if he wanted to buy some drugs.
According to Charles, Wade threatened him with a knife for no apparent reason. Charles backed up and grabbed a shovel out of a nearby pickup truck. Charles advanced on and backed away from Wade during their confrontation. Charles' brother, Nalen, arrived at the scene and grabbed the shovel from Charles. Charles went back to the truck and grabbed a pitchfork. When Charles returned, Nalen and Wade were "going back and forth, like facing off each other." Charles repeatedly hit Wade's hands in an attempt to disarm him. According to Charles, Nalen hit Wade in the back of the head with the shovel. Nalen's testimony was similar, but Nalen claimed Charles delivered the fatal blow.
Diana Horn lived on the street where the altercation occurred. Upon hearing someone yell, "I'm going to kick your ass," Horn looked out her window and saw Charles running down the street with a car slowly following him. Charles grabbed a shovel from a truck and disappeared around a corner. Horn did not see Wade. She then heard someone yell, "Well, what, are you going to cut me now? Are you going to cut me?" Horn saw Charles return to the truck and pick up the pitchfork before running back around the corner. She then saw Charles and Nalen fleeing the scene.
R.S. viewed the altercation from a house window. She saw the men running down the street. ...