Facts: Petitioner Ronald Hall was convicted of assault in the Superior Court for Pierce County and sentenced to an exceptional sentence on the basis of the trial court’s finding that the aggravating circumstances of deliberate cruelty and multiple injuries were present. Hall subsequently appealed his sentence, asserting that, consistent with the United States Supreme Court’s decision in Blakely v. Washington, the 6th Amendment to the United States Constitution requires that issues of fact regarding the presence or absence of aggravating circumstances be decided by the jury. The Supreme Court of Washington vacated Hall’s sentence and remanded the case for resentencing within the standard range, rejecting the respondent state of Washington’s argument that violations of the rule articulated in Blakely are subject to harmless error analysis. The state of Washington appealed this decision to the United States Supreme Court, which reversed the Supreme Court of Washington and remanded the case for determination of whether the erroneous imposition of an exception sentence upon Hall was harmless error.
Question(s): Was the erroneous imposition of an exceptional sentence upon Hall harmless error?
Conclusion: Justice Fairhurst’s opinion for the Court vacated Hall’s sentence and remanded the case for resentencing within the standard range, concluding that the error committed by the trial court in sentencing Hall to an exceptional sentence on the basis of aggravating circumstances not submitted to the jury could not have been harmless error insofar as there was no possibility that a jury would have reached the same findings of fact regarding the presence of aggravating circumstances given that the exceptional sentencing provisions in effect at the time gave sole discretion to find aggravating circumstances and impose exceptional sentences to trial courts.
Docket No. 75800-0
Petitioner: Ronald Hall
(Counsel: Rita Joan Griffith and Jeffrey Erwin Ellis)
Respondent: State of Washington
(Counsel: Gerald Allen Horne and Michael Sheeran)
Argument: Tuesday, March 13, 2007 10:00am
[Source: TVW, http://www.tvw.org]
Audio: Washington Supreme Court
Decided: Thursday, April 3rd, 2008
Prevailing Party: Ronald Hall (Petitioner)
Court: Alexander4 Court (2008-2009)
Note: We post only slip opinion(s) as published at the time of the decision. Please consult Washington Reports printed volumes for the opinion(s) in their final form. Each opinion should appear next to the Justice who authored it.