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State v. Echols

December 9, 1996


Appeal from Superior Court of King County. Docket No: 95-1-00251-6. Date filed: 09/25/95. Judge signing: Hon. Ann Schindler.

Armstrong, J.p.t.* Authored by Visiting Judge, Concurring: William W. Baker, H. Joseph Coleman.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Armstrong

ARMSTRONG, J.P.T.* -- Ramone Depar Echols appeals his judgment and sentence for first degree murder. Because the State presented sufficient evidence of premeditation to support his conviction and Echols waived any claim of prosecutorial misconduct by failing to object at trial, we affirm.

Roger Stoller and Rick Fox spent the night of December 23-24, 1994, at the home of Gregory Ferris, Fox's friend and the victim in this case. The three of them smoked crack cocaine until the early morning, when Stoller returned home. Later that morning, Stoller returned to the Kent Valley Motel, where he had bought cocaine the night before. There he met Echols, who told Stoller that he was having car trouble. Stoller said that his nephew, David Barney, might be able to fix the car in exchange for some cocaine. Stoller and Echols found Barney, who agreed to fix the car if he could find the necessary part.

Stoller and Barney then contacted several wrecking yards to find a radiator for Echols' car. Shortly after that, Fox arrived in a truck he had borrowed from Ferris. Fox accompanied Stoller and Barney to the motel to meet Echols. When Fox learned the nature of the deal, he intervened and said that he could do the work for ten rocks of cocaine. Fox requested and received some cocaine from Echols at that point, ostensibly to buy the radiator. For collateral, Fox left the truck he had borrowed from Ferris.

Fox, Stoller, and Barney then left the motel. Shortly thereafter, Fox made a racial slur about Echols and said that he would not fix Echols' car.

Stoller warned Fox against that choice and repeated that warning a bit later. Fox agreed that Stoller was right and said he would return in an hour.

Less than an hour later, Stoller and Barney concluded that Fox was unlikely to return and fix the car. After failing to locate him, they returned to the motel in hopes of reassuring Echols that they had intended to uphold their end of the bargain. Echols held them both responsible, saying, "You guys aren't going anywhere. One way or the other it's going to be fixed or I'll get my money back." Echols had them sit down but did not touch either of them. Echols then made a telephone call to get some "artillery." A half hour later, someone arrived, but Stoller did not see any exchange take place. Echols told FBI Agent Bakken after his arrest that he took a loaded Glock nine-millimeter semi-automatic pistol with him when he went to find Fox.

Stoller, Barney, Echols, and Echols' friend Marlin Curry then went to Ferris' house to find Fox. When they arrived, Stoller knocked on the door but received no answer. Echols then knocked and, receiving no answer, kicked in the door. Echols and Curry entered the house but left within a minute after finding no one inside. At that point, Ferris came out of the house through a side door. Echols confronted Ferris and said, "You owe me $200." Ferris denied the debt, and Echols replied that he would not return the truck. Ferris replied that he did not care because the truck was not his. After noticing the damage to his front door, Ferris denied any involvement in the car repair deal and expressed concern over the damage.

Ferris, Echols, and Curry then went into the house where Echols and Curry questioned Ferris regarding Fox's whereabouts. Within one or two minutes after they went into the house, Stoller heard one shot, a pause, and then several more shots. Curry testified that he saw Echols shoot Ferris several times. Echols fled and was arrested by FBI agents in Chicago.

On January 6, 1995, the State filed an information charging Echols with first degree murder by the alternative means of premeditated murder and felony murder. After his trial, a jury voted unanimously to convict him of both premeditated and felony murder. The trial court imposed a standard range sentence of 340 months. Echols now appeals.


Sufficiency of the Evidence

Echols claims that the State presented insufficient evidence to convict him of first degree premeditated or felony murder. When an appellant challenges the sufficiency of the evidence, this court's inquiry is whether, viewing the evidence in the light most favorable to the State, any rational trier of fact could find the essential elements of the crime proven beyond a reasonable doubt. *fn1 A reviewing court "need not itself be convinced beyond a reasonable doubt." *fn2 For purposes of a challenge to the sufficiency ...

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