Facts: Following respondent Tucero Knippling’s conviction for burglary and robbery in the Superior Court for Spokane County, the petitioner state of Washington sought to have Knippling sentenced to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole as a persistent offender pursuant to Washington Revised Code §9.94A.570 on grounds that Knippling had previously been convicted of assault in 2002 and robbery in 1999. The trial court concluded that Knippling’s 1999 conviction for robbery was not a prior conviction for purposes of establishing Knippling’s status as a persistent offender under §9.94A.570 insofar as Knippling was a juvenile at the time and the juvenile court had not expressly declined jurisdiction in favor of the superior court in which he was convicted. Upon appeal, the Washington Court of Appeals affirmed Knippling’s sentence, holding that Knippling’s 1999 conviction for robbery was not a prior conviction for purposes of §9.94A.570 absent an indication in the record regarding the basis for the superior court’s jurisdiction over Knippling. The state of Washington appealed this decision to the Supreme Court of Washington.
Question(s): Is a conviction of a juvenile in a superior court a prior conviction for purposes of §9.94A.570 absent an indication in the record regarding the basis for the superior court’s jurisdiction?
Conclusion: Chief Justice Alexander’s opinion for a unanimous Court affirmed the Washington Court of Appeals, concluding that as the crime Knippling was convicted of as a juvenile in 1999, second degree robbery, is not an offense automatically subject to superior court jurisdiction and as there was no record of the juvenile court declining jurisdiction in favor of the superior court, the conviction was not a prior conviction for purposes of §9.94A.570 and Knippling was therefore not a persistent offender subject to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole.
Petitioner: State of Washington
Respondent: Tucero Antonio Knippling
Argument: Tuesday, October 21, 2008 10:00am
[Source: TVW, http://tvw.org]
Audio: Washington Supreme Court
Decided: Thursday, April 30th, 2009
Prevailing Party: Tucero Antonio Knippling (Respondent)
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.