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State v. Boyer

Court of Appeals of Washington, Division 2

July 26, 2017

BUDDY L. BOYER, Appellant.

          BJORGEN, C.J.

         Buddy L. Boyer appeals the juvenile court's adjudication of guilt in his trial for second degree reckless burning, as well as his manifest injustice disposition at sentencing. He argues that (1) the juvenile court's finding of fact 5, concerning his actions just before the fire, is unsupported by substantial evidence, (2) he received ineffective assistance of counsel when his counsel failed to make a motion to dismiss at the close of the State's case because the State failed to provide independent evidence of the corpus delicti for second degree reckless burning, and (3) if the State prevails on appeal, we should decline to impose appellate costs. In his statement of additional grounds (SAG), he contends that the juvenile court improperly imposed a manifest injustice disposition on account of his risk of re-offending, resulting in an impermissibly long sentence.

         We conclude that substantial evidence supports finding of fact 5, we hold that Boyer did not receive ineffective assistance of counsel, and we decline to impose appellate costs on him. Furthermore, because the issue related to his manifest injustice disposition has already been decided by our court commissioner and we denied Boyer's motion to modify the commissioner's ruling, we decline to reach this issue. Accordingly, we affirm the juvenile court.


         On July 5, 2015, Donald Hanson Jr. pulled into the Valley Cleaners' parking lot and noticed Boyer sitting in the adjacent alley.[1] Hanson and Boyer acknowledged each other as Hanson went inside Valley Cleaners. Hanson saw Boyer handling something in his hand and doing something next to himself, but could not determine what he had or was doing. About two minutes later, someone came inside Valley Cleaners and said that there was a fire outside. Several people, including Hanson, began attempting to put it out. Hanson noticed that the fire was exactly where Boyer had been sitting.

         Within one or two minutes, Officer Jason Capps arrived at Valley Cleaners and witnesses stated that a potential suspect had recently left the alley. Officer Capps began searching the area and encountered Boyer, who matched the witnesses' description of the suspect, about two blocks away from Valley Cleaners. Another officer brought Hanson to Officer Capps, and Hanson identified Boyer as the person whom he saw in the alley. Officer Capps asked Boyer "if he only meant to start a small fire, " and he told Officer Capps that "he didn't mean to start the fire and that it just got out of control." Verbatim Report of Proceedings (VRP) (Feb. 4, 2016) at 9. The State charged Boyer with second degree reckless burning.

         On January 5, 2016, Boyer was seen carrying a 10-inch knife while at high school. He was arrested and charged with possession of a firearm or other dangerous weapon on school facilities. On January 21, 2016, Boyer pled guilty to that charge. The juvenile court deferred a disposition hearing on that conviction until after his trial for second degree reckless burning.

         At trial on the second degree reckless burning charge, the State called Officer Capps and Hanson as witnesses. On cross examination, defense counsel questioned Hanson about his observations of Boyer as Hanson was entering Valley Cleaners:

[Defense Counsel]: So you identified Mr. Boyer as being the person you saw there, but you didn't identify him as being the person who started the fire?
[Hanson]: I can't say he was starting the fire - that he physically started it, because it wasn't burning when I first pulled in and went to the laundry mat [sic].
[Defense Counsel]: When you - when you pulled up to the laundry mat [sic] and you had a brief conversation with Mr. Boyer, did you see any lighter or anything else in his hand?
[Hanson]: No. When I first pulled in he had - he was doing something like this and looked up at me and then went like that and, you know, nodded and [sic] kind of went like that back at him.
[Defense Counsel]: But you don't know what it was?
[Hanson]: No, no.

VRP (Feb. 4, 2016) at 20-21.

         As brought out in the following exchange, Boyer took the position that his admission to Officer Capps was false and that his friend Ryan Erickson had started the fire in the two minutes between Hanson entering Valley Cleaners and the detection of the fire.

[Boyer]: After Mr. Hanson arrived, my friend took off and he came back and he lit the fire and then he took off again.
[Defense Counsel]: Who was that?
[Boyer]: Ryan Erickson.
[Defense Counsel]: Okay. So Mr. Erickson started ...

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