In 2002, the Washington Supreme Court found that assault was not a predicate felony in the the state's felony murder statute. In re Andress, 147 Wn. 2d 602, Legalwa, Findlaw (majority only) (2002). (The legislature amended the statute so that assault is now included in the list of predicate felonies.)
At the time, prosecutors made dire predictions about convicted murderers walking free. Now, five years later, a reporter for the News Tribune reviews what happened in each of the 35 Pierce County cases affected by Andress. Adam Lynn, After ruling, has justice been done? State justices’ Andress decision in 2002 worried prosecutors, but today many killers remain in jail, News Tribune, Oct. 31, 2007.
Five years later, 29 of those 35 Pierce County inmates once again are convicted killers: 24 of second-degree murder, two of first-degree murder and three of first-degree manslaughter.Although the article focuses on Pierce County, it mentions King County:
A dozen of them received lighter sentences during their second prosecution because of changes in sentencing laws, new offender scores or sympathetic judges. But 14 received the same sentence, and three got more time behind bars than their original sentence, according to court records.
Six people still have unresolved cases. Five of those cases are wending their way back through the court system. The final person is involuntarily committed to Western State Hospital, so his case is in limbo indefinitely.
In King County, nearly two-thirds of the cases prosecuted again resulted in a lighter sentence for the defendant, according to prosecutor’s records, and many defendants there were allowed to plead guilty to manslaughter.See this post from March about a couple of King County cases post-Andress.
Thanks: Lisa Kremer.