Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

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

State v. Salgado-Mendoza

Supreme Court of Washington, En Banc

October 12, 2017

STATE OF WASHINGTON, Petitioner,
v.
ASCENCION SALGADO-MENDOZA, Respondent.

          STEPHENS, J.

         We are asked to decide whether the district court in Ascencion Salgado-Mendoza's 2013 trial for driving under the influence abused its discretion by refusing to suppress the testimony of the State's toxicology witness. The State initially disclosed the names of nine toxicologists from the Washington State Patrol toxicology laboratory, indicating its intent to call "one of the following." Clerk's Papers (CP) at 6. It whittled the list to three names the day before trial, but did not specify which toxicologist it would call until the morning of trial, noting that it provided the witness's name "as soon as we had it and that's all that we can do in terms of disclosure." Verbatim Report of Proceedings (VRP) (May 9, 2013) at 31. Salgado- Mendoza moved to suppress the toxicologist's testimony under CrRLJ 8.3(b) based on late disclosure, asking the court to "send a message to the state patrol crime lab and say this isn't okay anymore." Id. at 27. The court refused, finding no actual prejudice to the defense and observing that the practice of disclosing a list of available toxicologists rather than a specific witness was driven more by under funding of the crime labs than by mismanagement.

         Salgado-Mendoza appealed to the superior court, which found the district court had abused its discretion. The Court of Appeals affirmed, reasoning that the delayed disclosure violated the discovery rules and caused prejudice. We disagree. While the State's disclosure practice amounted to mismanagement within the meaning of CrRLJ 8.3(b), Salgado-Mendoza has not demonstrated actual prejudice to justify suppression. The trial court considered all the circumstances, including the nature of the witness's testimony and the five months that counsel had to prepare following the State's initial disclosure. On this record, we cannot say the district court's ruling was "manifestly unreasonable" and thus an abuse of discretion. We reverse the Court of Appeals.

         FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         In August 2012, Salgado-Mendoza was arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence (DUI). Salgado-Mendoza consented to a breath test, which revealed his blood alcohol concentration to be above the legal limit. The State charged Salgado-Mendoza with DUI, and trial was set in the district court of Jefferson County for May 9, 2013.

         At trial, the State planned to call a toxicologist as an expert witness to testify regarding DUI testing procedures in Washington. Five months before trial, the State disclosed a list of nine potential toxicologist witnesses, only one of whom would testify. Two weeks before trial, Salgado-Mendoza filed a supplemental discovery request demanding, in part, that the State identify which toxicologist it actually intended to call. The State asserts that it attempted to comply. Salgado-Mendoza still had not received this information by May 6, 2013, three days before trial. Alleging governmental misconduct, he filed a CrRLJ 8.3(b) motion to dismiss the case or suppress the toxicologist's testimony. The day before trial, the State narrowed the list to three names. At 9:00 a.m. on the morning of trial, the State identified the toxicologist who would testify, indicating it had just received the name that morning.

         Salgado-Mendoza asserted that the State's delayed disclosure was "a classic form of governmental misconduct." VRP at 25. Arguing that the need to interview and prepare for cross-examination of nine witnesses when only one will testify placed an undue burden on the defense, Salgado-Mendoza urged the court to dismiss-or at least to preclude the toxicologist's testimony.[1] In opposition, the State argued that five months was adequate time to prepare for each possible witness, the late disclosure was a result of the toxicology lab being "overworked and understaffed, "[2] and the prosecution had repeatedly contacted the toxicology lab to request that a specific toxicologist witness be identified. VRP at 30. The trial judge denied the motion and allowed the toxicologist's testimony. Id. at 35-36 (citing the toxicology lab's perennial staffing shortages and the five months Salgado-Mendoza had to prepare). The case proceeded to trial, where a jury found Salgado-Mendoza guilty.

         Salgado-Mendoza appealed his DUI conviction to the superior court for Jefferson County. Finding that the State's late disclosure constituted governmental mismanagement and a violation of discovery rules, that court held that the district court abused its discretion by failing to suppress the toxicologist's testimony. The superior court additionally held the trial court abused its discretion by suppressing a portion of the defense expert's testimony regarding the breath alcohol testing machine used in testing Salgado-Mendoza. The superior court reversed the conviction and remanded the matter for a new trial.

         The State moved for discretionary review. The Court of Appeals, accepting review only with respect to the trial court's decision not to suppress the toxicologist's testimony, affirmed the superior court. See State v. Salgado-Mendoza, 194 Wn.App. 234, 238, 373 P.3d 357, review granted, 186 Wn.2d 1017, 383 P.3d 1028 (2016). The Court of Appeals held that (1) the prosecutor's failure to "obtain the name of its witness in a timely manner" violated discovery rules and constituted governmental mismanagement, (2) this misconduct prejudiced Salgado-Mendoza, and (3) suppression of the toxicologist's testimony was the proper remedy. Id. at 243. Writing in dissent, Judge Worswick argued that the trial court's denial of Salgado-Mendoza's CrRLJ 8.3(b) motion did not constitute an abuse of discretion. Because Salgado-Mendoza's "bald assertion that he would have preferred to request a continuance" rather than proceed to trial unprepared was insufficient to meet the evidentiary burden of actual prejudice required for relief under CrRLJ 8.3(b), id. at 260 (Worswick, J. dissenting), it was not "manifestly unreasonable" for the district court to deny Salgado-Mendoza's motion. Wash. State Physicians Ins. Exch. & Ass'n v. Fisons Corp., 122 Wn.2d 299, 339, 858 P.2d 1054 (1993). We granted review.[3]

         STANDARD OF REVIEW

         We review a trial court's ruling on a CrRLJ 8.3(b) motion under the deferential abuse of discretion standard. See, e.g., State v. Michielli, 132 Wn.2d 229, 240, 937 P.2d 587 (1997). A court abuses its discretion when an '"order is manifestly unreasonable or based on untenable grounds.'" In re Pers. Restraint of Rhome, 172 Wn.2d 654, 668, 260 P.3d 874 (2011) (internal quotation marks omitted) (quoting State v. Rafay, 167 Wn.2d 644, 655, 222 P.3d 86 (2009)). A discretionary decision is '"manifestly unreasonable'" or '"based on untenable grounds'" if it results from applying the wrong legal standard or is unsupported by the record. Id. (internal quotation marks omitted) (quoting Rafay, 167 Wn.2d at 655). A reviewing court may not find abuse of discretion simply because it would have decided the case differently—it must be convinced that "no reasonable person would take the view adopted by the trial court.'" State v. Perez-Cervantes, 141 Wn.2d 468, 475, 6 P.3d 1160 (2000) (quoting State v. Huelett, 92 Wn.2d 967, 969, 603 P.2d 1258 (1979)).

         ANALYSIS

         Under CrRLJ 8.3(b), the party seeking relief bears the burden of showing both misconduct and actual prejudice. In this case, Salgado-Mendoza can demonstrate misconduct within the meaning of the rule, but not actual prejudice. He can prove misconduct because a discovery violation need not be willful-simple mismanagement will suffice. Here, the State's failure to at least narrow the list of possible toxicology witnesses pretrial reflects mismanagement. However, Salgado-Mendoza cannot show prejudice that warrants complete suppression of the toxicologist's testimony. As the trial court recognized, Salgado-Mendoza's counsel had ample time to prepare to examine each potential witness, given that discovery about their anticipated testimony and their professional backgrounds was timely provided.[4] Furthermore, while State toxicologists are not exactly fungible witnesses, their substantive testimonies would likely be similar. Under these circumstances, it was not manifestly unreasonable for the trial court to deny Salgado-Mendoza's CrRLJ 8.3(b) motion.

         A. Discovery Sanctions and Obligations in Washington

         If a party fails to comply with the rules of discovery, trial courts have broad authority to compel disclosure, impose sanctions, or both. See, e.g., State v. Hutchinson, 135 Wn.2d 863, 882-83, 959 P.2d 1061 (1998) (regulation of discovery is left to the "sound discretion" of trial courts). The rule at issue in this case, CrRLJ 8.3(b), authorizes the court to dismiss a criminal action if the State violates its discovery obligations. These obligations are found in CrRLJ 4.7(a), which governs discovery in criminal cases in courts of limited jurisdiction. The rule sets out, in relevant part, the prosecutor's obligation to disclose the identities of witnesses. See CrRLJ 4.7(a)(1). This rule is complemented by the prosecutor's continuing obligations under CrRLJ 4.7(d). Even if the State fails to live up to its discovery obligations, however, relief under CrRLJ 8.3(b) is available only if the trial court finds prejudicial governmental misconduct or arbitrary action.

         The use of CrRLJ 8.3(b) to punish a discovery violation is limited because the rule expressly contemplates dismissal, the most severe sanction available to trial courts. CrRLJ 8.3(b) states:

The court, in the furtherance of justice after notice and hearing, may dismiss any criminal prosecution due to arbitrary action or governmental misconduct when there has been prejudice to the rights of the accused which materially affect the accused's right to a fair trial. The court shall set forth its reasons in a written order.

         As relevant to this case, a trial court may grant a motion for relief under CrRLJ 8.3(b) only in the event of (1) governmental misconduct that (2) "materially affect[s] the accused's right to a fair trial."[5] Id. Violation of the State's discovery obligations can support a finding of governmental misconduct. See State v. Brooks, 149 Wn.App.373, 375, 203 P.3d 397 (2009).

         CrRLJ 4.7(a)(1) sets out the State's obligations under the rules of discovery for courts of limited jurisdiction. In relevant part, CrRLJ 4.7(a)(1) states that the "prosecuting authority shall, upon written demand, disclose"

(i) the names and addresses of persons whom the prosecuting authority intends to call as witnesses at the hearing or trial, together with any written or recorded statements and the substance of any oral statements of such witnesses;
(vii) any expert witnesses whom the prosecuting authority will call at the hearing or trial, the subject of their testimony, and any reports relating to the subject of their testimony that they have submitted to the prosecuting authority;

         This disclosure obligation is limited to information within the "possession [and] control" of the prosecutor. CrRLJ 4.7(a)(1), (4). As the Court of Appeals recognized, there is some question as to whether the prosecutor "controls" the toxicology lab even though both are state entities. See ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

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