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In 2010, a significant case was heard in the Washington Court of Appeals that highlighted key aspects of criminal defense and the importance of due process. The case, “State v. Skuza, 156 Wn. App. 886,” provides a compelling look into the complexities of legal proceedings, especially in terms of evidence admissibility and the rights of the accused.

Background of the Case

The Charges: Steven Skuza was found guilty of third-degree assault, fourth-degree assault, first-degree driving while license suspended, and bail jumping. However, he appealed the verdict, raising several crucial issues.

Key Issues in the Appeal

  1. Right to Silence: Skuza argued that the police improperly commented on his right to remain silent, a fundamental right in criminal proceedings.
  2. Prosecutor Misconduct: The allegation of misconduct by the prosecutor during the closing argument was another significant issue raised.
  3. Sentence Length: Skuza contended that his sentence exceeded the statutory maximum, a critical point considering the implications on his freedom and rights.

Notable Aspects of the Case

One of the most critical aspects of Skuza’s appeal was the trial court’s decision to exclude testimony from a bail bonds employee. Skuza claimed this exclusion deprived him of his due process right to present a defense against the bail jumping charge.

Court’s Decision

The appellate court found most of Skuza’s primary issues and his additional grounds for review (SAG) to lack merit. However, they agreed that excluding the bail bonds employee’s testimony was erroneous. Consequently, while affirming the assault convictions, the court reversed the bail jumping conviction and remanded for further proceedings.

ER 615 Violation: Central to the decision was the interpretation of ER 615, which deals with the exclusion of witnesses to prevent inconsistencies or collusion. The appellate court noted that the trial court erred in applying the harshest sanction of excluding crucial evidence for Skuza’s defense without sufficient factual development.

Protecting Defendant’s Rights: This case underscores the importance of ensuring that a defendant’s rights are protected, particularly regarding presenting a full and fair defense.


State v. Skuza serves as a vital reference in understanding the intricacies of criminal defense, the importance of adhering to legal standards for evidence admissibility, and the safeguarding of defendants’ rights in the judicial process. This case highlights the delicate balance courts must maintain between upholding the law and ensuring fair treatment to all parties involved in the legal process.

You can read the text of State v. Skuza 156 Wn. App. 886 (Wash. Ct. App. 2010) here:

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About Blanford Law:

We are no-nonsense, relentless, fair, and honest. We are great listeners instead of fast talkers, that is just who we are. More than 20 years ago, Ken began practicing law with a deeply-seeded belief that every person has the right to the best legal representation available. He built his law firm on that belief. Another belief that he strongly adheres to is his fundamental belief that clients deserve respect, with no assumptions or preconceived notions.  If you or someone you know is accused of a crime or injured as a result of the negligence of another, please have them call us at 253-720-9304 or email us