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State v. Harris

Court of Appeals of Washington, Division 2

July 24, 2018

JONATHAN DANIEL HARRIS, Appellant. In the Matter of the Personal Restraint Petition of JONATHAN DANIEL HARRIS, Petitioner.


          WORSWICK, J.

         Jonathan Harris pleaded guilty to second degree murder, second degree assault, and third degree assault. Harris stipulated that sufficient facts supported the plea to second degree murder; however, he pleaded guilty to second degree assault and third degree assault in accordance with In re Personal Restraint of Barr.[1] As part of his plea agreement, Harris signed a written waiver of his appeal rights.

         In this consolidated appeal and personal restraint petition (PRP), Harris argues that his guilty plea was not voluntary and intelligent, that the superior court's calculation of his offender score violated the prohibition against double jeopardy, and that newly discovered evidence undermines the factual basis for his plea. In the published portion of this opinion, we hold that Harris's plea was voluntary and intelligent and that he waived his right to appeal his sentence. In the unpublished portion of this opinion we hold that Harris fails to meet the standard for newly discovered evidence to merit withdrawal of his plea. Thus, we affirm Harris's convictions and sentence, and we deny his PRP.


         I. Charges

         In June 2015, the State charged Harris with second degree felony murder of Nicole White, predicated on second degree assault. The State's probable cause declaration detailed that earlier on the day White died, she and Harris had left a bar together, and that Harris's neighbor had seen a woman matching White's description at Harris's home and had also heard a female screaming. The declaration stated that police found White's body wrapped in a canvas tarp down the side of an embankment. White had suffered multiple broken bones in her skull. The declaration also stated that photographic and cell phone location evidence showed that on the day of White's death, Harris had driven his vehicle near the same embankment where police found White's body. The declaration further stated that police found a sweatshirt in Harris's home with White's blood on it.

         On November 4, the State filed an amended information charging Harris with first degree premeditated murder, asserting that Harris "did unlawfully and feloniously, with premeditated intent to cause the death of another person" cause White's death. Clerk's Papers (CP) at 5. The superior court arraigned Harris on the new charge. The State's supplemental probable cause declaration stated that in addition to multiple broken skull bones, White's sternum had sustained injuries consistent with being stomped on.

         II. Guilty Plea

         A. Plea Agreement

         On July 27, 2016 the State filed a second amended information charging Harris with second degree felony murder, second degree assault, and third degree assault of White.[2] That same day, Harris signed a plea agreement, agreeing to plead guilty to the amended charges. Harris's statement on plea of guilty said, "[I]n the early morning hours of June 7, 2015, at my residence in Pierce County, Washington State, with intent to cause her death, I severely beat Nicole White, a human being, and thereby caused her death." Clerk' Papers (CP) at 27. Instead of stating a factual basis for the assault charges, Harris acknowledged that under Barr, he was pleading guilty to the assaults, which were crimes he did not commit and for which there is no factual basis, "in order to take advantage of the plea agreement reached with the State." CP at 14.

         In an addendum to his guilty plea, Harris stated:

I understand that the prosecution would be unable to prove the amended charges in Counts II and III at trial, but I see pleading guilty to the amended charges as being beneficial to me because it will allow me to avoid the risk of conviction on the greater charges I would face at trial. Based upon a review of the alternatives before me, I have decided to plead guilty to crimes I did not commit in order to take advantage of the State's pretrial offer.

Suppl. CP at 547. Harris also stipulated to the facts and statements from the State's probable cause declaration. Harris further stated in his addendum that his counsel had discussed "all of the elements of the original charge" with him and that he understood them all. Suppl. CP at 547.

         Harris stipulated to his criminal history and further stipulated that his offender score would be 7 points for the second degree murder conviction. He stipulated that the second degree murder, second degree assault, and third degree assault each occurred on separate dates. In the plea agreement, Harris also waived his right to an appeal for "any and all other appellate rights [other than the right to appeal any sentence outside of his standard sentencing range] as part of this plea agreement in accordance with State v. Lee."[3] CP at 14. Harris and his counsel both signed acknowledgements that his counsel had consulted and reviewed the plea agreement with Harris.

         B. Plea Hearing

         On July 28, at Harris's plea hearing, the superior court engaged in a lengthy colloquy with Harris. Although the superior court did not directly ask Harris about his appeal rights waiver, the court inquired whether he had read his statement on the guilty plea, reviewed it with his counsel, understood everything, and had all of his questions answered. Harris responded affirmatively to all of the court's questions in this regard. Harris affirmed that he had no "confusion" or "questions" regarding the plea. 1 Report of Proceedings (RP) at 14. Harris's defense counsel also informed the court that he "went through the plea form with [Harris] in detail" and that Harris understood "his obligations under [the] plea agreement." 1 RP at 7-8. At the end of the colloquy, the superior court stated:

As to Counts 2 and 3 [the assaults], those are in the form of an In Re Barr plea and because of that I have read the original declaration that supports the original charges, the prosecutor's statement. I believe that does support the charges-more serious charges frankly, and I'm incorporating that declaration into this statement of defendant on plea of guilty.

1 RP at 20-21. The superior court concluded that Harris's plea was made freely, voluntarily, intelligently, and with an understanding of the consequences.

         III. Sentencing

         Harris was sentenced on October 31.[4] Harris objected to an offender score of 7 for the second degree murder conviction. In response, the State asserted that Harris should be held to his bargain and stipulations in the plea agreement. Notwithstanding Harris's objection, the superior court calculated Harris's standard range sentence for second degree murder based upon an offender score of 7. The court then sentenced Harris to a standard range sentence of 316 months in prison.

         Harris appealed his judgment and sentence. Harris also filed a CrR 7.8 motion for relief from judgment. The superior court transferred Harris's CrR 7.8 motion to this court to consider as a PRP. We consolidated Harris's direct appeal and his PRP.



         I. Validity of Plea

         Relying on Barr and CrR 4.2, Harris contends that his guilty plea is invalid because he was unaware that the nature of the original charge was premeditated murder and not second degree murder. The State's only response to this issue is that Harris invited this error, or alternatively, waived this argument in his plea agreement.[5] We hold that Harris did not waive his right to challenge the validity of his plea and that Harris's plea was valid because it was intelligent and voluntary.

         A. Legal Principles

         1. In re Personal ...

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