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State v. Cotton

May 19, 1997


Appeal from Superior Court of King County. Docket No: 94-1-07387-3. Date filed: 05/12/95. Judge signing: Hon. Patricia H. Aitken.

Authored by Ronald E. Cox. Concurring: Walter E. Webster, C. Kenneth Grosse.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Cox

COX, J. -- Lavell Cotton challenges the juvenile court's order declining jurisdiction over his case, as well as the trial court's judgment and sentence for first degree murder in the shooting death of seven-year-old Angelica Robinson. Because (1) the juvenile court properly weighed the Kent *fn1 factors in declining jurisdiction, (2) the State adduced sufficient evidence at trial to support his conviction, and (3) Cotton demonstrated no tailoring or prejudice from the State's failure to file CrR 3.5 findings of fact and Conclusions of law, we affirm.

One night in July 1994, William Kellogg was in the Pioneer Square area to purchase crack cocaine. At approximately 2:00 a.m., he met five young black men there, one of whom he later identified as Cotton. The men were looking for a motel room and offered Kellogg some crack if he would rent a room for them. Instead, Kellogg offered to let them stay in the house where he was living.

Kellogg then took Cotton and the others to the house and showed them where they could sleep. In exchange, one of the men gave him a rock of cocaine, which Kellogg smoked upon returning to his room. Instead of going to sleep, Cotton and the others began talking loudly and smoking marijuana.

Kellogg told them to be quiet, but they kept making noise.

They began roaming around the house and continued making noise. They also took a radio from a neighboring room, the door of which they had kicked in. Concerned about his standing in the household in light of the men's antics, Kellogg left the house and never returned.

In early August, Melinda Hong was at her parents' house with some of her friends from school. Hong picked up Tony Combs, Royce Hendrix, and Cotton in the International District and brought them to the party. When she went to pick them up, she brought her father's handgun and several bullets. Before they returned to Hong's house, the group went to an apartment where Hendrix obtained another handgun. They then returned to the party, where they stayed until early the next morning.

At approximately 5:00 a.m., Combs asked to borrow Hong's brother's car. Combs drove the car away with Cotton and Hendrix. The three of them returned to the house approximately an hour and a half later. Hong returned her father's gun to his desk.

At approximately 5:40 a.m. that morning, Eldon Madden was waiting for a bus near Rainier Avenue and South Chicago Street. While waiting, Madden saw Combs drive by, accompanied by two other young men, one of whom Madden identified as Cotton. The car continued past Madden, then turned around and passed by him, going in the other direction, and turned onto South Chicago Street. A few minutes later, Madden heard six or seven gunshots.

Shortly after Madden saw the car pass, Pauline Wade saw a similar car pass her house on South Chicago Street, in the same block as the house where Kellogg had taken Cotton, Combs, and Hendrix. The car drove by her house, turned around, slowly drove back, and parked in front of her neighbor's driveway. Three young African-American men emerged from the car. Wade noticed that the driver retrieved an object from under his seat and gave it to one of the passengers. All three of them began walking up the driveway toward the house where Kellogg had lived, but the driver returned to the car. The two passengers continued up the driveway out of Wade's view. She heard four gunshots and then dialed 911. When she turned around, the car had left.

Artina Robinson is the mother of Angelica, the victim. They were both living at the house when the shots were fired. After Ms. Robinson heard the shots, she heard Angelica moaning. She went to Angelica and found that she had been shot in the neck. Angelica died at the hospital a short time later as a result of a gunshot wound.

Another tenant at the house also awoke to the gunfire early that morning. He heard five or six shots within the house and a couple outside as well. He then heard someone running down the driveway.

The police recovered eight bullets from the crime scene, five from inside the house and three from the garage. The ninth bullet was recovered from Angelica's body. The state crime lab determined that the fatal shot was fired from Hendrix's gun. Cotton admitted firing shots but claimed that he shot only into the air. The crime lab matched two of the bullets recovered from the house with the gun Cotton admitted he had fired.

The State charged Cotton with first degree murder by information filed in juvenile court. After a declination hearing, the juvenile court entered an order declining jurisdiction and transferring the case to adult court.

The State then filed an amended information in adult court charging Cotton and his codefendants with first degree murder.

A jury convicted Cotton as charged. The trial court sentenced him within the standard range to 240 months' incarceration. Cotton appeals.



Cotton argues that the juvenile court abused its discretion by declining jurisdiction in this case. We disagree.

We review a declination decision under RCW 13.40.110 for an abuse of discretion. *fn2 "A trial court abuses its discretion only when its decision is manifestly unreasonable or based on untenable grounds." *fn3 In exercising its discretion in a declination proceeding, the juvenile court must consider the Kent factors, which our Supreme Court recently summarized as follows:

(1) the seriousness of the alleged offense and whether the protection of the community requires declination; (2) whether the offense was committed in an aggressive, violent, premeditated or willful manner; (3) whether the offense was against persons or only property; (4) the prosecutive merit of the complaint; (5) the desirability of trial and Disposition of the entire case in one court, where the defendant's alleged accomplices are adults; (6) the sophistication and maturity of the juvenile; (7) the juvenile's criminal history; and (8) the ...

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