Munzanreder appeals his conviction for the first degree
murder of his wife. Because of the sensational nature of the
alleged crime, local media extensively covered his case from
arrest through trial. His principal arguments on appeal are
the trial court abused its discretion when it denied his
motion to change venue, and the voir dire process used by the
trial court failed to protect his constitutional right to an
published portion of this opinion, we hold that the state
constitutional right to an impartial jury is not more
protective than the corresponding federal constitutional
right, that the voir dire process used by the trial court
protected Munzanreder's constitutional right to an
impartial jury, and that the trial court did not abuse its
discretion when it denied Munzanreder's motion to change
venue. We affirm Munzanreder's conviction, remand for two
technical corrections to the judgment and sentence, and deny
the State an award of appellate costs.
worked with Juan Ibanez at Valley Ford in Yakima, Washington.
In early February 2013, Ibanez approached Munzanreder and
asked him for money for a toolbox. Munzanreder agreed to give
him the money if he helped get rid of somebody. Munzanreder
told Ibanez that he wanted help killing his wife, Cynthia,
and would give him $20, 000. Ibanez said he would help, but
he would not kill her.
gave Ibanez cash and directed him to purchase a gun.
Munzanreder told Ibanez his plan: Munzanreder and his wife
would go the movies, he would shoot her with the new gun, he
would then throw the gun to Ibanez in some nearby bushes, and
Ibanez would run away with the gun.
February 28, 2013, the Munzanreders went to see a movie at
the Majestic Theater in Union Gap, Washington, a small city
immediately south of Yakima. Ibanez received a prearranged
text message from Munzanreder that the plan would be executed
and went to the theater and waited in the bushes adjacent to
the theater's parking lot. After the movie, as the couple
approached their car, Munzanreder shot his wife with the gun
purchased by Ibanez. Munzanreder then threw the gun into the
bushes where Ibanez waited. As Ibanez left the scene with the
gun, he ran past a couple near his car.
enforcement arrived and questioned witnesses. Munzanreder
told law enforcement he heard a shot and saw a man in black
clothes running away. Munzanreder said he had followed the
man, but fell and injured himself, developing a black eye.
wife later died from her injuries.
enforcement continued to investigate. They interviewed
Ibanez, whose car had been reported at the crime scene.
Ibanez quickly confessed and told law enforcement of the
details of the crime. Media coverage of both the murder and
the arrests quickly saturated Yakima County.
State originally sought to try Munzanreder and Ibanez
together. But due to the difficulty in excising references to
Munzanreder from Ibanez's confession, the court ordered
the trials severed. The State and Ibanez later reached a plea
deal that involved Ibanez pleading guilty and testifying
case proceeded to trial. Jury selection began on January 12,
2015, almost two years after the shooting. Of the 243
original venire jurors, nearly half were excused for
hardship. The remaining venire jurors completed juror
counsel and the State had worked together to create an agreed
juror questionnaire. The purpose of the questionnaire was to
uncover juror bias, so that the trial court and the parties
could individually interview venire jurors with possible bias
in open court but outside the presence of other venire
questionnaire contained many questions, including questions
focusing on pretrial publicity about the case. Those
questions asked the venire jurors to list media sources they
used, whether they generally believed the media, whether they
thought the media was fair to both sides of a case, and what
criminal cases they followed in the media. It also
specifically asked about Munzanreder's case. The
questionnaire asked venire jurors if they knew information
about the case from any sources, and concluded the section by
asking if they had formed any opinions about the case. The
questionnaire also asked venire jurors if they wanted to
discuss their answers separately from other jurors. The
completed questionnaires revealed that 105 of the remaining
128 venire jurors knew about the case; of these 105, 24 had
formed opinions; and of these 24, most believed Munzanreder
trial court and the parties agreed on which venire jurors
would receive individual interviews in open court. The trial
court and the parties questioned each venire juror about
media exposure, opinions of the case, the presumption of
innocence, and the ability to reach a verdict based on the
law given and the facts presented at trial. After each
interview concluded and the venire juror left the courtroom,
the parties had an opportunity to challenge the venire juror
for cause. Munzanreder challenged venire jurors 29, 49, 51,
89, 190, and 216 for cause. The trial court denied
Munzanreder's for cause challenges to venire jurors 29,
49, 51, and 89, but granted them as to venire jurors 190 and
216. Later, the trial court excused venire juror 29.
the remaining venire panel returned to the courtroom,
Munzanreder orally moved for a change of venue. The motion
was anticipated because Munzanreder had earlier said he would
make such a motion, and had provided the trial court and the
State with copies of local media stories and media Facebook
posts. The State, although opposing Munzanreder's motion,
indicated the trial court might give additional peremptory
challenges. Munzanreder responded that he might ask for
additional peremptory challenges, but would not do so until
after the court ruled on his motion. The trial court took the
motion under advisement and said it would make its ruling
later in the jury selection process.
parties completed voir dire and then went through the process
of selecting the jury. The trial court permitted each party 6
peremptory challenges for the first 12 jurors, and 1
additional peremptory challenge for each of the 3 alternate
jurors. Munzanreder never asked for additional peremptory
peremptory process began with the venire jurors sitting in
numerical order with the lowest 12 numbered panel members
being the presumed jurors. The parties alternated each of
their peremptory challenges. Because of the number of venire
jurors who remained, the number of peremptory challenges
allowed, and the number of juror and alternative juror slots,
it was not possible for venire juror 89, or any venire juror
higher than 89, to be seated as a juror or alternate juror.
For this reason, venire juror 89, one of the venire jurors
whom Munzanreder had unsuccessfully challenged, could not
have sat on the jury.
left venire jurors 49 and 51 as the only venire jurors whom
Munzanreder had unsuccessfully challenged for cause who could
have sat as a juror or alternate juror. Munzanreder had six
peremptory challenges to remove these two venire jurors. In
exercising his six peremptory challenges, Munzanreder removed
venire juror 49, but elected not to remove venire juror 51.
Venire juror 51 was the only empaneled juror whom Munzanreder
had unsuccessfully challenged for cause.
panel was sworn in. The trial court provided the panel
various preliminary instructions and then excused them for
lunch. With the panel excused, the trial court gave its oral
ruling denying Munzanreder's motion to change venue:
Before we break, I need to put on the record-perhaps it's
obvious. There was a motion for change of venue. The motion
I was impressed by the quality of the panel. I was impressed
by their promises and descriptions of how they would stay
free of any outside influence or their representations as to
how any influences might have impacted them.
There has been coverage on this case. I, frankly, don't
think it's as extensive as has been represented. A number
of the identifications that have been offered, newspaper
headlines, frankly, two of them startled me. I never saw
those. I quickly looked at the date. They were approximately
two years ago. I didn't recall them personally.
I saw nothing in the dialog we had with the jurors that
we've impaneled now that would suggest that they were in
any way influenced or biased by the news coverage. I think we
have an excellent panel.
I also noted that the nature of the media coverage has
changed over the years. The fact that TV might have covered
this in the last week or two, I was also interested to see
how few people really had seen it. News coverage is very
diverse, and local coverage seems to be left out of the mix
to a large extent.
One of the comments that one of the panelists had made was
that there have been so many homicides in Yakima that she
couldn't tell whether it was this case or another that
she was thinking about. Obviously that's not a good thing
to say about the community. On the other hand, it certainly
added to my belief that there was no particular prejudice by
denying the motion.
So the motion is denied.
1 Verbatim Report of Proceedings (VRP) (Jury
Selection-Pretrial Motions) at 1231-32. Over the next several
days, the parties presented their evidence.
the parties presented their evidence, the trial court
conferred with the parties to discuss jury instructions. The
State proposed a lesser included offense of second degree
murder. Munzanreder objected, and asserted that the evidence
did not support the inclusion of the lesser included offense.
The trial court granted the State's request. The trial
court later asked Munzanreder whether he had any objections
or exceptions to the State's instructions, other than its
decision to give the lesser included offense instruction.
Munzanreder responded that he saw no difference between the
State's offered instructions and his own. The trial court
adopted the State's instructions, instructed the jury,
and the parties gave their closing arguments.
jury returned a guilty verdict on first degree murder with a
firearm enhancement. The trial court sentenced Munzanreder to
340 months of incarceration. Munzanreder timely appealed.
published portion of this opinion, we address
Munzanreder's arguments that (1) the state constitutional
right to an impartial jury provides greater protection than
the corresponding federal constitutional right, (2)
constitutional due process and the right to an impartial jury
require a better process than the one used by the trial court
to root out bias, and (3) the trial court abused its
discretion when it denied his motion to change venue.
unpublished portion of this opinion, we address
Munzanreder's other arguments that (4) there was an error
in the to-convict instruction for second degree murder, (5)
there are two clerical errors in the judgment and sentence,
and (6) this court should deny the State an award of
appellate costs in the event it substantially prevails.
Scope of state constitutional right to an impartial jury
providing a Gunwall analysis, contends our state
constitution provides greater protection for an accused's
right to an impartial jury than the Sixth Amendment to the
United States Constitution. Although the right to an
impartial jury is protected in article I, section 22 of the
Washington State Constitution, Munzanreder's analysis
relies heavily on article I, section 2 ...