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State v. Davis

Supreme Court of Washington, En Banc

December 24, 2014

The State of Washington, Respondent ,
v.
Eddie Lee Davis, Petitioner . the State of Washington, Respondent ,
v.
Letrecia Nelson, Petitioner . the State of Washington, Plaintiff ,
v.
Douglas E. Davis, Defendant

Argued, May 15, 2014

Page 821

Appeal from Pierce County Superior Court 09-1-05374-1. Honorable Stephanie A. Arend.

Kathryn A. Russell Selk (of Russell Selk Law Office ); and Stephanie C. Cunningham, for petitioners.

Mark E. Lindquist, Prosecuting Attorney, and Kathleen Proctor, Deputy, for respondent.

WE CONCUR: Justice Charles W. Johnson, Justice Steven C. González, Justice Sheryl Gordon McCloud. AUTHOR: Justice Debra L. Stephens. AUTHOR: Justice Charles K. Wiggins. WE CONCUR: Chief Justice Barbara A. Madsen, Justice Susan Owens, Anne L. Ellington, Justice Pro Tem.

OPINION

Page 822

Fairhurst, J.

[182 Wn.2d 224] [¶ 1]In November 2009, Maurice Clemmons shot and killed four Lakewood police officers. Clemmons contacted Eddie Lee Davis and Letrecia Nelson shortly after the murders, and based on their actions following that contact, Davis and Nelson were convicted of rendering criminal assistance and possession of a stolen firearm. Davis was also convicted of unlawful possession of that firearm. This opinion, which has four votes, would hold that the State presented sufficient evidence to support the firearm possession convictions. However, that is not the opinion of the majority. On the second issue, the court with eight votes finds that the trial court's imposition of an exceptional sentence as to Davis' and Nelson's convictions for rendering criminal assistance is not legally justified. Thus, the result of the three opinions of the court is to reverse the Court of Appeals and remand for further proceedings.

FACTUAL BACKGROUND AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

[¶2] The facts of the murders are notorious and undisputed. On Sunday, November 29, 2009, Clemmons entered a coffee shop just before 8:00 a.m. with two handguns and began shooting at four Lakewood police officers, fatally wounding three. The fourth officer struggled with Clemmons [182 Wn.2d 225] and shot Clemmons once in the side, but Clemmons wrested the fourth officer's gun from him, fatally shot him, and left with the stolen gun.

Page 823

A Seattle police officer shot and killed Clemmons on December 1, 2009 when Clemmons attempted to draw the stolen gun on the officer.

[¶3] This case concerns the events of November 29, 2009 that occurred after Clemmons left the coffee shop. [1] There was some conflicting evidence at trial, but based on the nature of the issues presented for review, the evidence is taken in the light most favorable to the State, as discussed below. More specific discussion of the events is included in our analysis where relevant.

[¶4] Clemmons fled the coffee shop in a pickup truck driven by another. After abandoning the truck, Clemmons went to Davis' home, requested a ride to a house in Auburn, and said he had been shot while killing four police officers.

[¶5] Davis drove Clemmons to the Auburn house, which was Nelson's home. Clemmons banged on the window and then knocked on the door, saying he had been shot. Nelson let Clemmons inside, along with Davis. Clemmons told Nelson he had killed four police officers, been shot in the process, and stolen one officer's gun. At Clemmons' request, he was given fresh clothing and help treating his gunshot wound. Nelson put some clothes and the stolen gun in a shopping bag that was left on a counter. Just before leaving, Clemmons asked where the gun was and Davis replied that it was in the bag on the counter and gave the bag to Clemmons.

[¶6] Davis and Nelson were convicted of first degree rendering criminal assistance and possession of a stolen firearm. Davis was also convicted of second degree unlawful possession of a firearm. The jury found by special verdict [182 Wn.2d 226] the aggravating factor that " [t]he offense involved a destructive and foreseeable impact on persons other than the victim," and the trial court imposed exceptional sentences for the rendering criminal assistance convictions. [2] RCW 9.94A.535(3)(r). [3]

[¶7] Both Davis and Nelson argue that the State did not present sufficient evidence to support the jury's determination that they possessed the stolen gun. Both also argue that their exceptional sentences for rendering criminal assistance are not legally or factually justified. We granted Davis' and Nelson's petitions for review. State v. Davis, 179 Wn.2d 1014, 318 P.3d 280 (2014). We denied the State's cross petition.

ISSUES

[¶8] I. Does sufficient evidence support Davis' and Nelson's convictions relating to possession of a firearm?

[¶9] II. Are the exceptional sentences for rendering criminal assistance factually and legally justified?

ANALYSIS

I. The State presented sufficient evidence of firearm possession

[¶10] The firearm at issue here is the gun Clemmons stole from one of the officers he shot and killed. Davis and Nelson argue the evidence presented at trial showed, at most, their proximity to and momentary handling of the stolen gun and so the evidence is insufficient to support the essential element of possession for their convictions for possessing a [182 Wn.2d 227] stolen firearm, RCW 9A.56.310, and Davis' conviction for unlawful possession of a firearm, RCW 9.41.040(2)(a). We disagree.

[¶11] Our review on a challenge to the sufficiency of the evidence supporting a criminal conviction is highly deferential to the jury's decision, and we do not consider " questions of credibility, persuasiveness, and conflicting testimony." In re Pers. Restraint of Martinez, 171 Wn.2d 354, 364, 256 P.3d 277 (2011).

Page 824

[T]he test is whether, after viewing the evidence in the light most favorable to the State, any rational trier of fact could have found the essential elements of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt. All reasonable inferences from the evidence must be drawn in ...

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