Facts: Respondent Brian Siers was charged with two counts of second degree assault after stabbing two men, one of whom was attempting to break up a fight between Siers and another person, outside of a Seattle restaurant. Although no aggravating circumstances were alleged in the information, the state of Washington notified Siers prior to trial of its intent to seek a good Samaritan aggravator on one of the counts. After the state and Siers had each rested their case, Siers objected to the state’s proposed jury instructions on grounds that the good Samaritan aggravator had not been charged in the information. The trial court overruled Siers’ objection and Siers was found guilty of both charges. The jury also returned a special verdict finding that Siers assaulted one of the victims while they were acting as a good Samaritan. Siers appealed his conviction and the Washington Court of Appeals reversed on grounds that the state’s failure to plead the good Samaritan aggravator in the information functionally undermined the jury’s verdict on the substantive crime of second degree assault. The state of Washington sought review of this decision on the issue of whether aggravating circumstances must be alleged in the information.
Question(s): Must aggravating circumstances be alleged in the information?
Conclusion: Justice Alexander’s opinion for the Court reversed the Washington Court of Appeals, concluding that aggravating circumstances need not be alleged in the information. In particular, the Court held that an aggravating factor is not the functional equivalent of an essential element and that due process therefore only requires that the state give prior notice of its intent to seek an enhanced sentence.
Petitioner: State of Washington
(Counsel: Brian Martin McDonald)
Respondent: Brian Siers
(Counsel: Thomas Michael Kummerow)
Argument: Tuesday, October 25, 2011 10:00am
[Source: TVW, http://tvw.org]
Audio: Court of Appeals Division I
Audio: Washington Supreme Court
Decided: Thursday, April 19th, 2012
Prevailing Party: State of Washington (Petitioner)
Court: Madsen2 Court (2011)
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.