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State v. Stoddard, 29928-7-III: State Court of Appeals Confirms Conviction on Assault Charges

On October 18, 2012, the Washington State Court of Appeals for Division Three rejected the arguments of Kyle Stoddard and affirmed his conviction. The Appellant argued that there was insufficient evidence to convict on the charge of Assault in the First, and that all convictions were the result of misconduct in closing arguments.

At the trial the State alleged: Two Officers were driving away from the Kittitas County Jail, when they observed a man and a woman, arguing. The officers stopped. The incident was recorded on video, and this was played at trial. Mr. Stoddard walked toward the police yelling profanities. Mr. Stoddard pulled a knife, and yelled, "I am going to cut right through you fucker" to the police. The officers pulled their firearms. As Mr. Stoddard was being arrested he spit in the face of several of the officers. Mr. Stoddard was convicted at trial of one count of Assault in the First Degree and Two Counts of Assault in the Third Degree. Mr. Stoddard was sentenced to 207 months in prison. Mr. Stoddard was living in Cle Elum, Washington, at the time of the incident.

Mr. Stoddard on appeal argued that there was insufficient evidence to support the conviction of assault in the first degree. The court responded: First-degree assault does not require proof of actual harm, but the weapon must be used and must have at least the potential to carry out the threatened injury. That is the case here. The knife was pulled out when the two men were in actual physical contact, thus putting the officer at actual risk of being stabbed. The weapon was drawn and opened with the stated intent of using it on the officer. These factors establish the use or threatened use element of the deadly weapon definition.

Mr. Stoddard argued that the prosecution improperly made a golden rule argument during closing arguments. A golden rule argument is one that asks the jurors to put themselves in the position of one of the parties or to grant relief that they themselves would want. The Court responded:

By stating that Officer Potter and the community "deserve validation," the argument comes close to suggesting the jury should send a message or consider how its ruling would reflect on society. Such arguments are improper. Powell, 62 Wn. App. at 918. It is unclear exactly what the phrase "deserve validation" means. It is not a clear request to send a message nor does the reference to the community deserving validation necessarily suggest that the jury should consider how its ruling reflects on society. Thus, the most we can conclude here is that these phrases might have been construed improperly. In such circumstances, the alleged error is not so flagrant and ill-intentioned that it was beyond cure.

The Court of Appeals affirmed.

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