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State v. Jaeger

November 18, 1996

STATE OF WASHINGTON, RESPONDENT,
v.
JOHN R. JAEGER, APPELLANT.



Appeal from Superior Court of Snohomish County. Docket No: 94-1-01175-2. Date filed: 02/06/95. Judge signing: Hon. Anita L. Farris.

PER CURIAM. John Jaeger appeals his conviction of third degree assault, alleging the prosecutor committed misconduct during closing argument by pointing out that Jaeger did not call the wife of one of his witnesses to testify and corroborate Jaeger's version of the facts that led to him being charged with assault. The State of Washington has filed a cross-appeal, asserting the trial court erred in ruling the closing comments of the prosecutor were improper. While the prosecutor's remarks may arguably have been inappropriate, any misconduct was cured when the trial court sustained a defense objection to the argument and instructed the jury to disregard the comments. Accordingly, we affirm the judgment and sentence.

FACTS

On the evening of June 21, 1994, members of the Monroe Police Department were dispatched to the scene of an alleged domestic violence incident in Monroe. Upon arriving at the apartment where the incident allegedly took place, the police officers contacted Jaeger's wife who was visibly upset and appeared to be injured. At some point during the investigation, the police officers saw Jaeger with a three-foot stick in his hand. What happened next is disputed. As a result of the encounter, Jaeger was charged with third degree assault.

At the subsequent jury trial, Officer Lyle testified he was on duty on June 21, 1994, when he was dispatched to an apartment building in Monroe to investigate a report of domestic violence. He stated the report indicated a man had kicked in the door of an apartment and was beating on a woman.

According to the officer, he overheard an argument between a man and a woman as he approached the apartment. The officer testified that Jaeger's wife, Laurel Jaeger, answered the door and appeared to be quite upset.

Officer Lyle further testified that, although Mrs. Jaeger appeared to be slightly injured and was holding a piece of wood in her hand, she said everything was fine. Officer Lyle stated he noticed the door jam had been broken and shattered. Jaeger made his presence known a short time later when he demanded that the officers leave the apartment or risk being killed. Officer Lyle stated that Jaeger picked up a stick and demanded that the officers leave the apartment immediately. He testified that he did not recall Mrs. Jaeger ever asking the officers to leave the apartment.

The officer testified that Jaeger appeared to be very angry and that he started to swing the stick in the direction of the officers. Officer Lyle stated that he and Sergeant Johnson responded by spraying Jaeger with pepper spray.

Sergeant Johnson testified that he arrived at the apartment about the same time as Officer Lyle. The sergeant testified that the officers knocked on the front door of the apartment, that they identified themselves as police officers, and that Mrs. Jaeger opened the door. The sergeant testified that they then walked into the apartment through the open door and that Mrs. Jaeger did not object to them entering the residence.

Sergeant Johnson stated that Mrs. Jaeger appeared to have been crying and had red marks on her neck in the shape of a handprint. The sergeant stated that Jaeger came out of a room in the back part of the apartment and threatened to kill them. The sergeant testified that he and Officer Lyle sprayed Jaeger with pepper spray after Jaeger attempted to hit Officer Lyle with a stick. Sergeant Johnson testified that Jaeger, after being sprayed with pepper spray, fled from the area.

Jaeger took the stand in his own behalf. He disputed the circumstances surrounding his arrest. Jaeger testified that the police shoved their way into his residence and that they were asked to leave on numerous occasions by both him and his wife. He stated that the police officers attempted to provoke him into a fight, that he never threatened them with a stick, and that they finally sprayed him with pepper spray without justification. Jaeger's wife Laurel testified to similar facts.

The defense also called Anthony Siewart. Mr. Siewart testified that he and Jaeger resided in the same apartment complex and that he was home when the officers entered Jaeger's apartment. According to Mr. Siewart, he watched from approximately 100 feet away as two police officers walked up to the Jaeger apartment, shoved Mrs. Jaeger out of their way, ignored her request to leave the area, and entered the apartment. When questioned by the prosecutor on cross, Mr. Siewart stated that his wife was standing next to him at the time of the forced entry. Another defense witness testified that Mrs. Jaeger had injured herself while river rafting.

On rebuttal, Sergeant Johnson testified that Mr. Siewart was mistaken when he said the officers forced the apartment door open.

In closing, the prosecutor highlighted the strengths of the State's case and the weaknesses of the case presented on behalf of the defense.

The prosecutor discussed the testimony of Jaeger and his wife Laurel and argued why the jury should not believe their testimony. The ...


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