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State v. Brown

May 12, 1997


Appeal from Superior Court of King County. Docket No: 95-8-03205-4. Date filed: 08/29/95. Judge signing: Hon. Bobbe J. Bridge.

Authored by Ronald E. Cox. Concurring: H. Joseph Coleman, Mary K. Becker.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Cox

COX, J. -- Calvin Brown challenges his juvenile court Disposition for possession of cocaine with intent to distribute. He claims that the trial court erred by denying his motion to dismiss, which he grounded in the State's alleged failure to comply with discovery requests concerning testing procedures and compliance therewith at the Washington State Patrol Crime Laboratory. We disagree and affirm.

In May 1995, Seattle Police Officer K. Saucier purchased $20 of suspected cocaine from Brown. The State filed an information charging Brown with delivery of cocaine.

Edward Suzuki, a forensic scientist with the Washington State Patrol Crime Laboratory, submitted a report stating that what Saucier had purchased contained cocaine. On June 27, Brown filed a motion to dismiss, arguing that the crime lab had violated the Washington public records act by failing to provide certain records. The records allegedly could have impeached the reliability of the lab's narcotics testing procedures. The State moved to consolidate the hearings on Brown's motion with similar motions by defendants in other cases. The trial court granted the motion. After the consolidated hearing, the trial court denied Brown's motion to dismiss and those of seven others. But the court granted three other motions to dismiss based on the crime lab's failure to respond to subpoenas for documents.

Brown then stipulated to the State's evidence for the purposes of a fact-finding hearing. After finding him guilty, the juvenile court entered a standard range Disposition. Brown appeals.

Motion to Dismiss

Brown argues that the trial court erred by failing to dismiss his charge when, in the same hearing, the court dismissed three other similar cases with which his case had been consolidated. We disagree.

Our Supreme Court has stated, "The trial court's power to dismiss is discretionary and is reviewable only for manifest abuse of discretion." *fn1 A trial court abuses its discretion when its "decision is manifestly unreasonable, or is exercised on untenable grounds, or for untenable reasons." *fn2 This court will reviews findings of fact to determine whether substantial evidence supports them. *fn3 Substantial evidence exists if the record contains a sufficient quantity of evidence "to persuade a fair-minded, rational person of the truth of the finding." *fn4

CrR 8.3(b) provides, "The court, in the furtherance of Justice, after notice and hearing, may dismiss any criminal prosecution due to arbitrary action or governmental misconduct when there has been prejudice to the rights of the accused which materially affect the accused's right to a fair trial." The Blackwell court reiterated the well-settled rule that dismissal is an extraordinary remedy available only in cases where the accused can demonstrate material prejudice. *fn5

Brown first claims that the trial court erred by finding that he had requested no documents either through the public records act or through the criminal rules. He bases his challenge first on the contention that the consolidation order incorporated into his case the requests for information filed in other consolidated cases. The record does not support this contention.

Brown argues that because the trial court consolidated the hearings on the motions to dismiss, the actions were likewise consolidated. He cites CR 42(a), a civil rule to which the State alluded in its motion below:

When actions involving a common question of law or fact are pending before the court, it may order a joint hearing or trial of any or all the matters in issue in the actions; it may order all the actions consolidated; and it may make such orders concerning proceedings therein as may tend to avoid unnecessary costs or delay. Although the above is a civil rule, not a criminal rule, it expressly contemplates a joint hearing of common issues in separate actions as one of the alternatives to consolidation of the actions. Here, the State's motion sought consolidation of only the motion hearings, nothing more. The cases that Brown cites involve consolidations of entire actions. *fn6 They do not control here.

Brown's second basis for his challenge to the trial court's finding that he made no document request relies on a public records act request *fn7 that was not made in Brown's case. But he offers no authority stating that failure to respond to such a request, made outside the criminal proceeding in question and prior to the ...

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