Facts: Petitioner Richard Warren was convicted in separate trials of one count of first degree child molestation of his younger stepdaughter and three counts of second degree child rape of his older stepdaughter in the Superior Court for King County. Warren subsequently appealed his convictions, asserting that the prosecutor committed misconduct during closing arguments in both trials by mischaracterizing the state’s burden of proof, by referring to facts not in evidence, by disparaging defense counsel, and by improperly vouching for the testimony of one of the alleged victims. Warren also appealed the trial court’s issuing of a no contact order as a condition of his sentence prohibiting him for life from having contact with his wife, asserting that it infringed upon his constitutional right to marriage. The Washington Court of Appeals affirmed Warren’s convictions and the no contact order. Warren appealed this decision to the Supreme Court of Washington.
Question(s): Did the prosecutor’s statements during closing arguments constitute misconduct?
If so, was the error harmless?
Does the no contact order infringe upon Warren’s constitutional right to marriage?
Conclusion: Justice Chambers’ opinion for the Court affirmed the Washington Court of Appeals, concluding that although the prosecutor’s mischaracterization of the state’s burden of proof was improper, the misconduct was harmless insofar as the trial court subsequently issued an appropriate and effective curative instruction to the jury. The Court also held that although the disparaging statements made by the prosecutor with regard to defense counsel were also improper, there was no indication that they were prejudicial. Finally, the Court found that the no contact order prohibiting Warren from having contact with his wife is a valid crime related prohibition given that Warren’s wife is the mother of the two victims and given Warren’s previous conviction for domestic violence against his wife.
Docket No. 79356-5
Petitioner: Richard Warren
(Counsel: Elaine L. Winters)
Respondent: State of Washington
(Counsel: Dennis John McCurdy)
Argument: Tuesday, November 6, 2007 9:00am
[Source: TVW, http://tvw.org]
Audio: Washington Supreme Court
Decided: Thursday, November 20th, 2008
Prevailing Party: State of Washington (Respondent)
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.