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State v. Filitaula

Court of Appeals of Washington, Division 1

December 8, 2014

The State of Washington, Respondent ,
v.
Mason Iopu Filitaula, Appellant

Superior Court of Pierce County. Cause No: 11-1-03371-8. Judge Signing: Hon. Frank E. Cuthbertson. Date filed: April 20, 2012.

Casey Grannis (of Nielsen Broman & Koch PLLC ), for appellant.

Mark E. Lindquist, Prosecuting Attorney, and Jason Ruyf, Deputy, for respondent.

Concurred by: Judge Leach, Judge Dwyer.

OPINION

Page 222

[184 Wn.App. 821] Becker, J.

[¶1] Allowing litigants to exercise peremptory challenges in writing does not implicate the public trial right when a public record is kept showing which jurors were challenged and by which party.

[¶2] On July 23, 2011, Joshue Tamblin exchanged argumentative text messages with his former girlfriend, demanding the return of property. Her current boyfriend, Jeremy Gains, intervened in the text message exchange. Tamblin challenged Gains to a fight. Gains went to Tamblin's home with appellant Mason Filitaula and two other individuals. As soon as they arrived, Tamblin began hurling insults at Filitaula. Filitaula responded with his own insults. He then shot Tamblin in the ankle. This incident led to criminal charges against Filitaula. A jury convicted him of second degree assault and unlawful possession of a firearm.

[¶3] Filitaula contends that his right to a public trial was violated when the parties exercised their peremptory challenges in writing.

[¶4] After voir dire, counsel exercised their peremptory challenges on a written form while in an open courtroom. Members of the public and potential jurors were allowed to remain in the courtroom. The judge said:

THE COURT: I want to thank the lawyers for your questions. I want to thank you all for your answers. As we have gone along, we have been exercising what we

Page 223

call challenges for cause, and so the benches are not quite as tight as they were [184 Wn.App. 822] this time yesterday. And now the lawyers are going to exercise what they call peremptory challenges, and while they're exercising their peremptory challenges, you all can be at ease and can even talk to each other, but I'm going to ask that, of course, you don't discuss the case and I'm going to ask that you remain right where you are and make sure that your numbers are visible on your clothing because they're going to still be operating by your pink tags.

[¶5] After a pause in the proceedings, the judge reviewed the peremptory challenge form, announced the individuals who had been selected to make up the jury, and excused the ...


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