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State v. Silence

January 21, 1997


Appeal from Superior Court of King County. Docket No: 95-8-01481-1. Date filed: 10/30/95. Judge signing: Hon. Mary W. Brucker.

Authored by Susan R. Agid. Concurring: Mary K. Becker, Ann L. Ellington.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Agid

AGID, J. -- Randy Silence appeals his manifest inJustice Disposition for second degree assault. He argues that the juvenile court erred in finding that he used excessive force in defending himself, the reasons relied on by the court for the manifest inJustice Disposition are not supported by the record, and the sentence was clearly excessive. We disagree and affirm.


On the afternoon of March 25, 1995, Damien McBride and a companion approached Randy Silence and his friend Ken as they walked out of a gas station in Snoqualmie. McBride is a 6'1" 16-year-old high school football player who weighs 240 pounds and has difficulty controlling his temper. McBride had heard a rumor that Randy sold drugs and stolen bicycle parts to McBride's younger brother and told Randy not to give his brother any more drugs. Randy replied that he would give McBride's brother drugs if he wanted to and started to walk away. McBride responded, "You're mine when I see you next."

At about 8:30 that evening, Randy and Ken were sitting with eight or nine other young people outside the Si View Pool. When McBride arrived with some friends and walked toward the group, Randy stood up and walked forward so that McBride would see him. He told McBride to leave him alone. McBride was admittedly angry and swung a clenched fist at Randy. He missed. He then grabbed Randy's shoulder with his left hand and was pulling Randy toward him when Randy thrust a small folding lock-back knife into McBride's chest. McBride exclaimed, "You fucking stabbed me." Randy responded, "Damn right I did." Randy then ran away, and several people chased him including, for about 100 yards, McBride. McBride was then taken to Harborview Hospital where doctors determined that the knife had punctured the left ventricle of his heart. Although McBride later recovered, the surgeon who repaired the injury testified that he had two severe episodes of low blood pressure during which there was a 50 percent chance he would die from his injury.

Randy Silence was charged by amended information with first degree assault or, in the alternative, second degree assault. Following an adjudication hearing, the court found Randy guilty of second degree assault. The court rejected Randy's self-defense argument, finding that although he may have initially acted to defend himself, he had used more force than was necessary.

A Disposition hearing on June 6, 1995, was continued to October 30, 1995, to give Randy an opportunity to complete inpatient drug and alcohol treatment at Ryther. After the October 30 hearing, the court entered a manifest inJustice Disposition of 52 weeks with credit for 18 weeks served. A commissioner of this court denied Randy's motion for accelerated review of his manifest inJustice Disposition on August 7, 1996, after she concluded that his appeal of the manifest inJustice Disposition should be considered with the merits. Randy has served the standard range of 28 weeks. The trial court released him pending the outcome of this appeal.


Sufficiency of the Evidence

Randy first contends that there was insufficient evidence to support the trial court's finding that he used excessive force in defending himself. Due process requires the State to prove each element of an offense beyond a reasonable doubt. See State v. Green, 94 Wash. 2d 216, 220-21, 616 P.2d 628 (1980) (citing In re Winship, 397 U.S. 358, 90 S. Ct. 1068, 25 L. Ed. 2d 368 (1970)). Substantial evidence supports a conviction if, viewing the evidence in the light most favorable to the State, any rational trier of fact could find the essential elements of the offense beyond a reasonable doubt. Green, 94 Wash. 2d at 221-22 (citing Jackson v. Virginia, 443 U.S. 307, 99 S. Ct. 2781, 61 L. Ed. 2d 560 (1979)).

In Washington, self-defense is defined by statute. State v. Janes, 121 Wash. 2d 220, 237, 850 P.2d 495, 22 A.L.R.5th 921 (1993). Force used by a person about to be injured is not unlawful if "the force is not more than is necessary." RCW 9A.16.020(3). A court must evaluate the evidence from the standpoint of a reasonably prudent person who knows all the defendant knows and sees all the defendant sees. Janes, 121 Wash. 2d at 238. If the defendant raises the issue, the State must prove the absence of self-defense beyond a reasonable doubt. State v. Summers, 120 Wash. 2d 801, 818-19, 846 P.2d 490 (1993); State v. Acosta, 101 Wash. 2d 612, 616, 683 P.2d 1069 (1984). Here, the court found that although Randy may have acted to defend himself, he used excessive force when he responded to a physical altercation by stabbing his assailant in the heart with a knife. See State v. Brigham, 52 Wash. App. 208, 210, 758 P.2d 559 (although displaying a knife may have been a reasonable response to the physical altercation initiated by the victim, the character of their encounter changed when the defendant stabbed the victim and, at that point, his use of force became excessive as a matter of law), review denied, 111 Wash. 2d 1026 (1988).

Randy argues that the evidence was insufficient because McBride himself did not testify that he saw Randy thrust the knife at him and, therefore, it "appears" McBride simply stepped into it. The record reflects, however, that three different witnesses to the altercation testified that they saw Randy step forward and stab McBride. E.S. testified, "[Randy] went towards him, and then he stabbed him;" M.M. testified, "Randy lunged at him . . . he stuck his arm forward and went forward and stabbed him;" and N.S. testified, "Randy stabbed him." This evidence is more than sufficient to permit a rational trier of fact to reject Randy's contention that his role in the altercation was merely "passive" and, instead, to conclude that Randy responded to a physical ...

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