Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Official citation and/or docket number and footnotes (if any) for this case available with purchase.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

State v. Knight

Court of Appeals of Washington, Division 2

September 24, 2013

The State of Washington, Respondent,
v.
Amanda Christine Knight, Appellant

Page 777

[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

Page 778

Appeal from Pierce County Superior Court. Docket No: 10-1-01903-2. Date filed: 05/13/2011. Judge signing: Honorable Rosanne Nowak Buckner.

Mitch Harrison (of Harrison Law ), for appellant.

Mark E. Lindquist, Prosecuting Attorney, and Melody M. Crick, Deputy, for respondent.

AUTHOR: J. Robin Hunt, P.J. We concur: Joel Penoyar, J., Thomas R. Bjorgen, J.

OPINION

Page 779

Hunt, J.

[176 Wn.App. 940] ¶ 1 Amanda Christine Knight appeals two convictions for second degree assault against

Page 780

two victims, JS [1] and Charlene Sanders, (Counts III and V) during a home invasion robbery [2]; she also appeals her sentences, arguing that they were based on an incorrect offender score. Knight argues that there was insufficient evidence to support these convictions and that they constitute double [176 Wn.App. 941] jeopardy because (1) the jury instructions were ambiguous, and (2) the assaults should have merged with her first degree robbery convictions committed against the same two victims (Counts IV [3] and II). She also asks us to remand for resentencing because the trial court erred in calculating her offender score when it counted several of the convictions as separate points instead of counting them as one point because they constituted the same criminal conduct under RCW 9.94A.589(1)(a). In her Statement of Additional Grounds (SAG), Knight asserts that the trial court erred in failing to give a nonunanimity jury instruction for the special verdicts that enhanced her sentence. We affirm.

FACTS

I. Crimes

¶ 2 Amanda Christine Knight, Joshua Reese, and Kyoshi Higashi were acquaintances, who, with another acquaintance, Clabon Berniard, participated in a home invasion robbery in Lake Stevens in April 2010. Soon thereafter, on April 28, Higashi told Knight that he wanted to commit another robbery; Knight drove her car to Renton to pick up Higashi and then picked up Berniard. Higashi had found a Craigslist wedding ring advertisement posted by James Sanders. Using a nontraceable throw-away cell phone, Knight contacted Sanders that morning and asked whether she and her boyfriend could see the ring to buy for Mother's Day. Wanting to arrive after dark, Knight claimed that they were coming from Chehalis and could not be there until that evening.

¶ 3 Knight drove Higashi, Berniard, and Reese to the Sanders' house at 9:00 pm; she drove down the long driveway [176 Wn.App. 942] and backed in to park to facilitate a quick getaway. Higashi was in possession of Knight's firearm; Reese and Berniard were also armed. They had zip ties and masks with them. Before entering, Knight covered up her tattoos and put on a pair of gloves, and Higashi handed her several zip ties. They met James Sanders outside. The three walked together into the Sanders' kitchen.

¶ 4 Inside, James [4] handed an old wedding ring to Knight, who handed it to Higashi. When Knight and Higashi asked several questions about the ring, James called upstairs to his wife, Charlene, asking her to come down to help answer the questions. Their two children, JS and CK, remained upstairs. Knight told James she was interested in buying the ring.

¶ 5 Higashi revealed a large amount of cash and asked, " How is this?" He also pulled out a handgun and threatened, " How about this?" 5 Verbatim Report of Proceedings (VRP) at 580. Charlene and James told Higashi and Knight to take whatever they wanted and to leave. Knight zip tied Charlene's hands behind her back; Higashi zip tied James's hands behind his back. Knight removed Charlene's wedding ring from her finger. Knight or Higashi removed James's wedding ring from his finger. Higashi and Knight ordered James and Charlene to lie down on their stomachs on the floor.

¶ 6 Through Knight's Bluetooth headset connection to Reese and Berniard waiting in her car, they heard that the Sanders adults had been secured; and Knight signaled them to enter. Knight knew that Reese and Berniard

Page 781

possessed loaded guns and that using these guns was part of the group's plan to carry out the Sanders' home invasion robbery. Reese and Berniard went upstairs, brought down the two Sanders boys with their hands behind their heads at gunpoint, and forced them to lie down on their stomachs [176 Wn.App. 943] on the floor near the kitchen entryway; Knight walked between them. Charlene and JS saw Knight and Higashi gather up items from the house, including from the downstairs laundry room. Knight also ransacked the main bedroom upstairs, looking for other expensive items to collect.

¶ 7 From upstairs, Knight heard the commotion and screams downstairs as her companions assaulted the Sanders family. Berniard held a gun to Charlene's head, pulled back the hammer, began counting down, and asked her, " Where is your safe?" 5 VRP at 586. Charlene responded that they did not own a safe. Berniard kicked Charlene in the head, called her a " b*tch," and threatened to kill her and her children. 5 VRP at 586. According to Charlene, " [Berniard] kicked [her] so hard that [her] head went up and then [she] hit down on the ground" ; it left a large " goose egg" on her left temple. 5 VRP at 587. Charlene believed she was going to die. Eventually, Charlene told the intruders that they kept a safe in their garage.

¶ 8 While Berniard was forcing James to the garage, James broke free of his zip ties and began beating Berniard. Berniard shot James in the ear, knocking him unconscious. JS jumped on Berniard, who threw JS off and began hitting him with the butt of his firearm. Reese then dragged James's body back through the kitchen and into the adjacent living room, where it was out of sight. Either Reese or Berniard shot James multiple times, causing fatal internal bleeding.

¶ 9 Following the gunshots, the four intruders fled immediately. Charlene went to the living room and found James lying on the floor; his body appeared white, and one of his ears had been shot off. Charlene called 911. The police declared James dead at the scene; autopsy investigators later recovered three bullets from his body. The police also took JS to the hospital, where he was treated for bruising and bleeding around his left ear; the beating left scars that were still visible a year later. In addition to the rings, among the items missing from the Sanders' home were a PlayStation, an iPod, and a cellular phone.

[176 Wn.App. 944] ¶ 10 Knight dropped Higashi at a friend's house; Knight and Reese went to a hotel. Later that evening, Higashi called Knight; when they met up, Higashi told Knight and Reese that James had been killed and that they needed to discard the clothing they had been wearing and to " get rid of" any remaining zip ties. 7 VRP at 922. Knight handed over her clothing.

¶ 11 The following morning, Knight, Reese, and Higashi began driving to California and sold the Sanders' PlayStation and Knight's firearm along the way. California police eventually pulled them over and arrested them on unrelated charges. Knight posted bail, pawned James's wedding band, and purchased a bus ticket to return to Washington. On hearing the news that she was a murder suspect, she turned herself in to the Sumner Police Department.

II. Procedure

¶ 12 The State charged Knight with (1) first degree felony murder of James (Count I); (2) two counts of first degree robbery, [5], [6] against James (Count II) and Charlene (Count IV); (3) two counts of second degree assault, [7] against Charlene (Count V) and JS

Page 782

(Count III); and (4) first degree [176 Wn.App. 945] burglary (Count VI). Each charge alleged accomplice liability and carried a firearm enhancement and other sentencing aggravators for manifest deliberate cruelty, a high degree of sophistication or planning, and an offender score that would result in some of the current offenses going unpunished.

¶ 13 In its opening statement, the State explained that it would prove the following: (1) Knight and three accomplices, Higashi, Reese, and Berniard, planned to go to the Sanders' house, ostensibly to purchase a ring that James had advertised on Craigslist, " tie everybody up and steal the expensive stuff out of the house ... ransack the place and take what they could" ; [8] (2) Knight had later told police that she " wore gloves so she wouldn't leave fingerprints [and] wore long sleeves because she ha[d] rather distinctive tattoos on her arms" ; [9] (3) once inside the house, Knight zip tied Charlene's hands behind her back, ordered her face down on the kitchen floor, and took Charlene's wedding ring off her hand; (4) Knight then used a Bluetooth to signal the others to enter; (5) later the intruders got the idea that there was a safe in the house, demanded the safe's location, kicked Charlene in the face, and demanded the combination; (6) they also beat Charlene's stepson JS when he tried to intervene to protect his father, James, who was also being beaten before being shot three times; and (6) Knight would claim at trial that she and Reese had been upstairs stealing valuables while JS, Charlene, and James were being beaten downstairs.

¶ 14 The jury instructions provided: (1) To elevate the robbery to first degree, the jury was required to find that, during the commission of the crime, " [Knight] or an accomplice [was] armed with a deadly weapon or inflict[ed] bodily injury." 2 Clerk's Papers (CP) at 339 (Instruction 12); see also CP at 354 (Instruction 26).

[176 Wn.App. 946] ¶ 15 (2) " An assault is an intentional touching or striking of another person. ... An assault is also an act done with the intent to create in another apprehension and fear of bodily injury." 2 CP at 346 (Instruction 18).

¶ 16 (3) " A person commits the crime of [a]ssault in the [s]econd [d]egree when she or an accomplice intentionally assaults another and thereby recklessly inflicts substantial bodily harm or assaults another with a deadly weapon." 2 CP at 347 (Instruction 19).

¶ 17 (4) " A separate crime is charged in each count. You must decide each count separately. Your verdict on one count should not control your verdict on any other count." 2 CP at 334 (Instruction 7).

¶ 18 During closing argument, the State delineated the elements of each crime as set forth in the court's jury instructions and summarized the evidence supporting the elements of each crime. The State specifically argued that it had proved the first degree robbery of Charlene, Count IV, with evidence that Higashi had pointed a gun at Charlene, while Knight zip tied Charlene and took her wedding ring, facts that Knight herself later admitted. [10] The State then argued that it had proven Knight's involvement in the second degree assault of Charlene, Count V, when Berniard put a gun to Charlene's head and started the countdown, during which she was to reveal the safe's location and was kicked in the head.

Page 783

¶ 19 In her closing argument, Knight expressly admitted her participation in the initial robbery of the Sanders' rings, including that she had " tie[d] up Charlene Sanders and put her down on the floor" to " secur[e] the people" so the four invaders could " go rob the house." 7 VRP at 1036, 1037. Knight claimed, however, that she had done so under duress from Higashi, who had coerced her to participate in the Sanders' home invasion, burglary, and robberies. In contrast, Knight clearly distanced herself from Berniard's later [176 Wn.App. 947] " brutal" [11] assaults of JS and Charlene: She argued that she had neither planned nor participated in these two assaults, which she did not even witness. [12]

¶ 20 The jury found Knight guilty on all counts. It returned special verdicts on the firearm enhancements, finding that Knight or an accomplice had been armed during the commission of the crimes. It did not return special verdicts finding Knight had committed the crimes with deliberate cruelty to the victims or with a high degree of sophistication.

¶ 21 At sentencing, Knight moved the court to find that her two assault convictions constituted double jeopardy under the merger doctrine; she also argued that, for sentencing purposes, all of her convictions were based on the same criminal conduct. The trial court denied the motion. Based on an offender score of 10, the trial court imposed high-end standard-sentences on all counts and ran them concurrently; the trial court added firearm enhancements and ran them consecutively. [13]

[176 Wn.App. 948] ANALYSIS

I. Sufficient Evidence

¶ 22 Knight argues that there was insufficient evidence to support her two second degree assault convictions, against JS (Count III) and Charlene (Count V). We disagree.

A. Standard of Review

¶ 23 Evidence is sufficient if any rational trier of fact could find the essential elements of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt; evidence is viewed in the light most favorable to the State. State v. Hosier, 157 Wn.2d 1, 8, 133 P.3d 936 (2006). A defendant claiming that the evidence was insufficient admits the truth of the State's evidence and all reasonable inferences that may be drawn from it. State v. Salinas, 119 Wn.2d 192, 201, 829 P.2d 1068 (1992).

¶ 24 Circumstantial evidence and direct evidence are equally reliable. State v. Delmarter, 94 Wn.2d 634, 638, 618 P.2d 99 (1980). We defer to the trier of fact on issues of conflicting testimony, credibility of witnesses, and the persuasiveness of the evidence. State v. Walton, 64 Wn.App. 410, 415-16, 824 P.2d 533 (1992).

B. Second Degree Assaults

¶ 25 To prove that Knight was an accomplice to the assaults on Charlene and JS, the State needed to show that she (Knight) knowingly " promote[d]" or " facilitate[d]" the commission of these crimes (1) by soliciting, commanding, encouraging, or requesting another person to commit the crimes; or (2) by aiding or agreeing to aid another in the planning or committing of the crimes. RCW 9A.08.020(3)(a). [14] [176 Wn.App. 949] A person aids or abets a crime by associating himself with the undertaking, participating in it as in something he desires to bring about, and seeking by his action to make it succeed. In re Welfare of Wilson, 91 Wn.2d 487, 491, 588 P.2d 1161 (1979).

Page 784

¶ 26 Knight does not dispute that Berniard's kicking Charlene in the head and hitting JS with the butt of his firearm satisfied the elements of second degree assault as to each victim. Instead, she argues that she cannot be culpable as an accomplice to the assaults because they occurred while she was upstairs gathering property in the Sanders' main bedroom. This argument fails: A person's physical presence during the offense is not required for accomplice liability. See State v. Trujillo, 112 Wn.App. 390, 398, 408, 49 P.3d 935 (2002) (defendant facilitated commission of murder by knowingly driving the shooters and their weapons to kill rival gang member, despite remaining in van during the shooting).

¶ 27 Knight is correct that " mere presence at the scene" cannot serve as the basis for accomplice liability. Br. of Appellant at 9 (citing Wilson, 91 Wn.2d at 491-92). But Knight was more than merely a present, uninvolved observer. The State presented the following evidence from which the jury could reasonably infer that Knight knowingly promoted or facilitated the commission of the assaults: (1) Knight called James to arrange a meeting under the pretense of purchasing a wedding ring advertised for sale; (2) she drove Higashi, Reese, and Berniard to the Sanders' home; (3) she knew that the plan to obtain the Sanders' ring involved using loaded guns; (4) once inside, she tied Charlene's hands behind her back with zip ties and forced her to the ground; and (5) after Charlene and James were on the ground, Knight used a Bluetooth to signal Reese and Berniard to enter the house, knowing that they [176 Wn.App. 950] were both armed. Each act placed the Sanders in a more vulnerable position and facilitated the commission of the assaults by allowing Knight's accomplices to gain entrance and to avoid resistance. Based on this evidence, we hold that a reasonable jury could infer that Knight promoted or facilitated the commission of these two assaults by aiding another in planning or committing the assaults.

II. Double Jeopardy

¶ 28 For the first time on appeal, Knight argues that her two second degree assault convictions against Charlene and James [15] (Counts V and III) and two first degree robbery convictions, also against Charlene and James (Counts IV and II), constituted double jeopardy. Specifically, she argues that (1) the jury instructions for her second degree assault convictions were ambiguous, and (2) the trial court erred in failing to merge these assault convictions into her robbery convictions. [16] Again, we disagree.

A. Failure To Preserve Jury Instruction Challenge

¶ 29 Generally, a party who fails to object to jury instructions below waives any claim of instructional error on appeal. State v. Edwards, 171 Wn.App. 379, 387, 294 P.3d 708 (2012), review denied, 176 Wn.2d 1025 (2013). But a defendant does not waive a manifest error affecting a constitutional right by failing to object below. RAP 2.5(a)(3); State v. Walsh, 143 Wn.2d 1, 7, 17 P.3d 591 (2001). The initial burden is on Knight to demonstrate that the error is [176 Wn.App. 951] both manifest and is of constitutional dimension. RAP 2.5(a)(3); State v. O'Hara, 167 Wn.2d 91, 98, 217 P.3d 756 (2009). The determination of whether an error is " manifest" requires an appellant to show " actual prejudice," which we determine by looking at the asserted error to see if it had " practical and identifiable consequences" at trial. State v. Gordon, 172 Wn.2d 671, 676, 260 P.3d 884 (2011) (internal quotation marks omitted) (quoting O'Hara, 167 Wn.2d at 99; see also State v. Bonds, 174 Wn.App. 553, 569, 299 P.3d 663 (2013), petition for review file d, No. 88780-2 (Wash. May 8, 2013). We narrowly construe exceptions to RAP 2.5(a). State v. Montgomery, 163 Wn.2d 577, 595, 183 P.3d 267 (2008).

Page 785

¶ 30 Our Supreme Court has held that a double jeopardy claim is an error of constitutional magnitude. But Knight fails to make any showing that the alleged ambiguous jury instruction error was manifest because she fails to show any prejudice resulting from the jury instruction that she alleges, for the first time on appeal, was ambiguous. State v. Mutch, 171 Wn.2d 646, 661, 254 P.3d 803 (2011); State v. Bertrand, 165 Wn.App. 393, 402, 267 P.3d 511 (2011), review denied, 175 Wn.2d 1014 (2012). We hold, therefore, that she has failed to carry her burden to trigger exercise of our limited discretion under RAP 2.5(a)(3) to entertain a nonpreserved claim of error; thus, we do not address the merits of her instructional challenge. Bertrand, 165 Wn.App. at 402.

B. Merger; Double Jeopardy

¶ 31 The state and federal double jeopardy clauses provide the same protections. In re Pers. Restraint of Orange, 152 Wn.2d 795, 815, 100 P.3d 291 (2004); see U.S. Const. amend. V; Wash. Const. art. I, § 9. If a defendant's acts support charges under two statutes, we ask whether the legislature intended to authorize multiple punishments for the crimes in question. State v. Freeman, 153 Wn.2d 765, 771, [176 Wn.App. 952] 108 P.3d 753 (2005); In re Pers. Restraint of Borrero, 161 Wn.2d 532, 536, 167 P.3d 1106 (2007), cert. denied, 552 U.S. 1154 (2008). Double jeopardy principles also bar courts from entering multiple convictions for the same offense. State v. Womac, 160 Wn.2d 643, 650-51, 160 P.3d 40 (2007). We consider the elements of the crimes as charged and proved, not merely at the level of an abstract articulation of the elements. Freeman, 153 Wn.2d at 777 (citing State v. Vladovic, 99 Wn.2d 413, 423, 662 P.2d 853 (1983); Orange, 152 Wn.2d at 817-18). Double jeopardy is a question of law, which we review de novo. Freeman, 153 Wn.2d at 770.

¶ 32 In State v. Calle, our Supreme Court set forth a three-part test for double jeopardy claims. 125 Wn.2d 769, 776, 888 P.2d 155 (1995); see also State v. Kier, 164 Wn.2d 798, 804, 194 P.3d 212 (2008). First, we search for express or implicit legislative intent to punish the crimes separately; if this intent is clear, we look no further. Calle, 125 Wn.2d at 776. Second, if there is no clear statement of legislative intent, we may apply the " same evidence" Blockburger test, which asks if the crimes are the same in law and in fact. Calle, 125 Wn.2d at 777-78 (citing Blockburger v. United States, 284 U.S. 299, 304, 52 S.Ct. 180, 76 L.Ed. 306 (1932)). Third, we may use the merger doctrine to discern legislative intent where the degree of one offense is elevated by conduct constituting a separate offense. Kier, 164 Wn.2d at 804 (citing Vladovic, 99 Wn.2d at 419). But even if two convictions appear to merge on an abstract level, the State may punish them separately if each conviction has an independent purpose or effect. Kier, 164 Wn.2d at 804; Freeman, 153 Wn.2d at 773.

¶ 33 Under the merger doctrine, when a criminal act forbidden under one statute elevates the degree of a crime under another statute, the courts presume that the legislature intended to punish both acts through a single conviction for the greater crime. Freeman, 153 Wn.2d at 772-74 (when assault elevates robbery to first degree, generally the two crimes constitute the same offense for double jeopardy [176 Wn.App. 953] purposes). The Freeman court did not, however, adopt a per se rule; instead, it underscored the need for a reviewing court take a " hard look at each case" based on its facts and charged crimes. Freeman, 153 Wn.2d at 774.

¶ 34 Knight argues that her convictions for second degree assault and first degree robbery of Charlene (Counts V and IV) should merge. [17] Because the later second degree assault was not necessary to elevate the degree of the earlier robbery, this merger argument fails. [18] See Freeman, 153 Wn.2d

Page 786

at 772-73; State v. Esparza, 135 Wn.App. 54, 57, 143 P.3d 612 (2006).

¶ 35 The information alleged that Knight was guilty of robbery under RCW 9A.56.190, which provides that a person commits robbery " when he or she unlawfully takes personal property from the person of another or in his or her presence against his or her will by the use or threatened use of immediate force, violence, or fear of injury [176 Wn.App. 954] to that person." The information elevated this robbery to the first degree [19] by alleging that Knight, or her accomplice, was " armed with a deadly weapon" while taking Charlene's wedding ring. 2 CP at 305. Consistent with the information, the jury instructions specified that to elevate robbery to the first degree, the jury had to find that, during the robbery, " [Knight] or an accomplice [was] armed with a deadly weapon or inflict[ed] bodily injury." 2 CP at 339 (Instruction 12) (emphasis added); see also CP at 354 (Instruction 26). The State charged and produced evidence for only the first alternative, armed with a deadly weapon; and the record shows that this first degree robbery was completed when Higashi threatened Charlene with a firearm and Knight removed Charlene's wedding ring, at which point no one had inflicted bodily injury on Charlene.

¶ 36 The information also alleged that Knight was guilty of second degree assault in that she " intentionally assault[ed] Charlene Sanders, and thereby recklessly inflict[ed] substantial bodily harm, contrary to RCW 9A.36.021(1)(a), and / or did intentionally assault Charlene Sanders with a deadly weapon, to wit: a handgun." [20] 2 CP at 307 (emphasis added). The trial court instructed the jury on the first and third common law definitions of " assault" [21]:

An assault is an intentional touching or striking of another person. ... An assault is also an act done with the intent to create in another apprehension and fear of bodily injury.

and

[176 Wn.App. 955] A person commits the crime of [a]ssault in the [s]econd [d]egree when she or an accomplice intentionally assaults another and thereby recklessly inflicts substantial bodily harm or assaults another with a deadly weapon.

2 CP at 346 (Instruction 18), 347 (Instruction 19), respectively. The " to convict" instructions

Page 787

for second degree assault contemplated Knight's or her accomplices' using a handgun as the means of proving second degree assault or an unlawful touching or striking, as provided as an alternative means under RCW 9A.36.021(1)(a).

¶ 37 Knight's merger argument would be compelling if the second degree assault of Charlene could have involved only Higashi's pointing Knight's gun at Charlene when they robbed Charlene of her wedding ring at the beginning of the home invasion; but such were the not the facts here. On the contrary, accomplice Berniard's later assaults of Charlene (with a different firearm and by kicking her in the head) support the second degree assault conviction, independent of the firearm threat that Knight and Higashi had earlier used to take Charlene's ring during the robbery. Both the State's and Knight's closing arguments support the jury's treatment of Higashi's earlier firearm threat while removing Charlene's wedding ring from her finger as separate from Berniard's later threatening Charlene by pointing a gun at her head to force her to reveal the location of the safe and kicking her in the head. For example, two main points during Knight's closing argument were (1) her open admission that she had participated in the initial robbery of Charlene's ring while Higashi pointed the gun, claiming, however, that the others had forced her to participate in that robbery and the burglary; and (2) she had no prior knowledge of, she had been nowhere near, and she had not in any way participated in Berniard's later brutal assaults of Charlene, JS, and James.

¶ 38 As our Supreme Court admonished in Freeman and Mutch, when considering double jeopardy, we take a " hard [176 Wn.App. 956] look" at the facts [22] and a " rigorous" review of the " entire trial record." [23] We focus on the crimes as charged and instructed to the jury, the evidence in the case, and the closing arguments. [24] Here, Berniard's pointing his gun at Charlene and kicking her in the head to force her to reveal the location of a safe provided an " independent purpose" and support for a separate conviction for this later second degree assault, independent of Knight's and Higashi's earlier completed robbery of Charlene's ring at gunpoint. See Freeman, 153 Wn.2d at 778-79 (" independent purpose or effect" exception is " less focused on abstract legislative intent and more focused on the facts of the individual case" ); State v. Prater, 30 Wn.App. 512, 516, 635 P.2d 1104 (1981) (separate injury and intent justified separate assault conviction where defendant struck victim after completing a robbery). Berniard's later assault of Charlene to locate the family safe " was no part of the robbery" [25] of her wedding ring by Knight and Higashi earlier.

¶ 39 We hold, therefore, that under the facts here, (1) the second degree assault (Count V) and the first degree robbery (Count IV) do not merge; and (2) proof that Knight and/or her accomplices committed the crime of second degree assault was not necessary to elevate the robbery to first degree. Esparza, 135 Wn.App. at 66 (citing Freeman, 153 Wn.2d at 777-78).

[176 Wn.App. 957] III. Effective Assistance of Counsel

¶ 40 Knight next argues that she received ineffective assistance when her trial counsel allegedly failed to inform the trial court that it could impose an exceptional sentence downward. Knight's argument fails.

A. Standard of Review

¶ 41 To prevail on a claim of ineffective assistance of counsel, a defendant must show

Page 788

that (1) her counsel's representation was deficient, falling below an objective standard of reasonableness; and (2) the deficient performance prejudiced her. State v. Sutherby, 165 Wn.2d 870, 883, 204 P.3d 916 (2009) (citing State v. McFarland, 127 Wn.2d 322, 334-35, 899 P.2d 1251 (1995) (citing Strickland v. Washington, 466 U.S. 668, 687, 104 S.Ct. 2052, 80 L.Ed.2d 674 (1984))). A petitioner's failure to prove either prong ends our inquiry. State v. Hendrickson, 129 Wn.2d 61, 78, 917 P.2d 563 (1996). [26]

¶ 42 A standard range sentence is generally not appealable. RCW 9.94A.585(1). Nevertheless, a defendant may appeal the trial court's procedure in imposing his sentence. State v. Ammons, 105 Wn.2d 175, 183, 713 P.2d 719, 718 P.2d 796 (1986). Here, Knight encompasses her sentencing challenge within an ineffective assistance of counsel claim.

B. No Prejudice Shown

¶ 43 Even assuming, without deciding, that the trial court could have imposed an exceptional sentence downward [176 Wn.App. 958] under former RCW 9.94A.535 (2008), [27] we hold that (1) Knight fails to show that her counsel's failure to inform the court of this possibility prejudiced her, [28] and (2) her reliance on State v. McGill [29] is misplaced. [30] The trial court in McGill " erroneously believed it could not depart from a standard range sentence even though it expressed a desire to do so." McGill, 112 Wn.App. at 97. Here, in contrast with McGill, there is no indication that the trial court would have considered or imposed even a low end standard sentence, let alone an exceptional sentence downward. [31] Instead, the trial court's imposition of a high-end standard-range sentence expressed quite the opposite. Knight has failed to show that her counsel's failure to inform the court of the possibility of an exceptional sentence downward prejudiced her. Accordingly, her ineffective assistance of counsel challenge fails.

IV. Offender Score

¶ 44 Finally, Knight argues that the trial court erred in calculating her offender score because several of her current [176 Wn.App. 959] convictions were based on the " same criminal conduct" under RCW 9.94A.589(1)(a). We disagree.

A. Standard of Review

¶ 45 Where two or more offenses encompass the same criminal conduct, the sentencing court counts them as a single crime when calculating the defendant's offender score. RCW 9.94A.589(1)(a). " Same criminal conduct" for offender score calculation purposes means " two or more crimes" that (1) require the " same criminal intent," (2) were committed at the " same time and place," and (3) involved the " same victim." RCW 9.94A.589(1)(a). If any one of these elements is missing, the sentencing court must count the offenses separately in calculating the offender score. State v. Maxfield,

Page 789

125 Wn.2d 378, 402, 886 P.2d 123 (1994); see also State v. Dunaway, 109 Wn.2d 207, 216, 743 P.2d 1237, 749 P.2d 160 (1988). But absent an abuse of discretion or misapplication of the law, we may not reverse a trial court's determination of what constitutes the same criminal conduct for offender score calculation purposes. State v. Tili, 139 Wn.2d 107, 122, 985 P.2d 365 (1999).

B. Crimes Not Based on Same Criminal Conduct

¶ 46 Knight argues that the trial court erred in failing to treat the following pairs of crimes as the " same criminal conduct" for offender score purposes because they occurred at the same time and place and her " objective intent throughout the incident never changed from completing the robbery" [32]: (1) first degree robbery and felony murder of [176 Wn.App. 960] James (Counts II and I), and (2) first degree robbery and second degree assault of Charlene (Counts IV and V). [33] She also argues that first degree burglary should have counted as the same criminal conduct as her other crimes because it, too, occurred at the same time and place and her " objective intent throughout the incident never changed." Br. of Appellant at 31. At sentencing, the trial court rejected Knight's same criminal conduct argument, stating:

[T]he robbery, that is, of the ring, was completed before the assaults and the murder occurred. Therefore, although they occurred in the same place, Counts I and II and IV and V do not occur at the same time. The robbery of James Sanders was completed, as well as the robbery of Charlene Sanders, at the time their rings were stolen. And therefore, the murder and the assaults would not be the same criminal conduct because of that.
In addition, we have a different person involved in the assaults, which is Clabon Berniard, and therefore, it's a completely separate criminal act for that purpose.

8 VRP at 1090 (emphasis added). We adopt the trial court's rationale as it pertains to our offender score analysis here.

1. Robbery and murder of James

¶ 47 Our Supreme Court has previously addressed and rejected the notion that robbery and murder share the same criminal intent for " same criminal conduct" offender score purposes, holding, " When viewed objectively, ... the intent behind robbery is to acquire property while the intent behind attempted murder is to kill someone." [34] Dunaway,

Page 790

109 Wn.2d at 216. In addition, here, James's [176 Wn.App. 961] later murder did not further the commission of either earlier robbery because both robberies were completed once Knight's accomplice took James's and Charlene's wedding rings, well before Berniard's later assault of Charlene and before Berniard and Reese brought the children downstairs. Thus, Knight fails to show that the trial court abused its discretion in concluding that the murder and robbery of James did not occur at the " same time." RCW 9.94A.589(1)(a).

2. Robbery and assault of Charlene

¶ 48 In our evidence sufficiency analysis, we held that Knight was an accomplice to the assault on Charlene based on Berniard's kicking Charlene in the head. We rejected her argument that, because this assault occurred while Knight was upstairs gathering property in the Sanders' main bedroom, she could not be culpable as an accomplice. The robbery of Charlene was complete once Knight removed the ring from Charlene's finger while Higashi held the firearm. This later assault--Berniard's kicking Charlene in the head in an attempt to get the safe--does not constitute the same criminal conduct as the earlier robbery because, as the trial court similarly concluded, [176 Wn.App. 962] these two crimes did not occur at the same time. Thus, they could not count as the same criminal conduct for offender score purposes under RCW 9.94A.589(1)(a).

3. Burglary anti-merger statute

¶ 49 Knight's final argument--that the burglary constituted the same criminal conduct as all of her other convictions--ignores the trial court's independent legislative authority to punish the burglary separately under the burglary anti-merger statute:

Every person who, in the commission of a burglary shall commit any other crime, may be punished therefore as well as for the burglary, and may be prosecuted for each crime separately.

RCW 9A.52.050. This statute gives a trial judge discretion to punish a burglary separately, even where the burglary and another crime encompassed the same criminal conduct. State v. Lessley, 118 Wn.2d 773, 781-82, 827 P.2d 996 (1992). The trial court here had authority under RCW 9A.52.050 to impose a separate sentence for Knight's burglary conviction, regardless of whether the burglary constituted the same criminal conduct as any of her other convictions.

¶ 50 We hold that Knight fails to show that the trial court abused its discretion in denying her request to treat any of her convictions as the same criminal conduct for offender score calculation purposes under RCW 9.94A.589(1)(a).

V. Remaining SAG Issue: Special Verdict Unanimity

¶ 51 In her SAG, Knight asserts for the first time that her sentence violated her right to a jury trial under the Washington Constitution, article I, section 21, because the jury was not properly instructed it could vote " no" on the special verdict forms for her firearm enhancements. SAG at 1. She is incorrect.

¶ 52 Knight fails to show how this alleged jury instruction error prejudiced her or that it was manifest for purposes [176 Wn.App. 963] of the RAP 2.5(a)(3) exception to the preservation requirement. Mutch, 171 Wn.2d at 656; Bertrand, 165 Wn.App. at 402 (special verdict jury instruction incorrectly stating that jury must unanimously answer " no" is not of constitutional magnitude); State v. Grimes, 165 Wn.App. 172, 182-84, 267 P.3d 454 (2011), review denied, 175 Wn.2d 1010 (2012). Thus, she cannot raise this challenge for the first time on appeal, and we do not further address it. [35] RAP 2.5(a)(3); Bertrand

Page 791

165 Wn.App. at 402. [36]

¶ 53 We affirm.

Penoyar and Bjorgen, JJ., concur.


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Official citation and/or docket number and footnotes (if any) for this case available with purchase.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.