47 P.3d 149 (Wash.App. Div. 3 2002), 19545-7, State v. Blakely

Docket Nº:19545-7-III.
Citation:47 P.3d 149, 111 Wn.App. 851
Opinion Judge:SCHULTHEIS
Party Name:STATE of Washington, Respondent, v. Howard Ralph BLAKELY, Appellant.
Attorney:Douglas D. Phelps, Scott R. Staab, Marletta Giles-Ward, Phelps & Associates, Spokane, for Appellant., John D. Knodell, III, Ephrata, for Respondent.
Case Date:May 23, 2002
Court:Court of Appeals of Washington

Page 149

47 P.3d 149 (Wash.App. Div. 3 2002)

111 Wn.App. 851

STATE of Washington, Respondent,


Howard Ralph BLAKELY, Appellant.

No. 19545-7-III.

Court of Appeals of Washington, Division 3, Panel Six.

May 23, 2002.

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[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

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[111 Wn.App. 855] Douglas D. Phelps, Scott R. Staab, Marletta Giles-Ward, Phelps & Associates, Spokane, for Appellant.

John D. Knodell, III, Ephrata, for Respondent.


Howard Ralph Blakely pleaded guilty to one count of second degree kidnapping and one count of second degree assault. Consistent with the plea agreement, the State recommended the high end of the standard range. After a sentencing evidentiary hearing, where the State presented testimony from the victims and mental health professionals, the trial court imposed an exceptional sentence upward. Mr. Blakely now appeals, contending the State violated the plea agreement by advocating for an exceptional sentence. He also challenges the constitutionality of the sentence and the sentencing hearing. Pro se, he claims he had ineffective assistance of counsel and alleges various acts of misconduct by the State. Finding no error, we affirm.


Mr. Blakely and Yolanda Blakely were married in 1973. They raised three children: two daughters and their youngest son, Ralphy. The family acquired considerable real property during the marriage, including a home, ranch, and development property in Montana; a home and orchard in Grant County; a lake home; and rental properties. In order to protect this property from creditors and tax liability, they created a trust known as the Blakely Farms Trust.

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[111 Wn.App. 856] In 1995, Ms. Blakely moved to Spokane from Montana, filed for divorce, and obtained a restraining order against Mr. Blakely. One year later, the trustee for the Blakely Farms Trust filed a petition for a declaration of the validity of the trust and for an accounting. In December 1997, the Spokane divorce court authorized Ms. Blakely to move into the Grant County home and to operate the orchard. Her son Ralphy joined her there in June 1998.

On the afternoon of October 26, 1998, about two weeks Before the trust litigation was set to begin, Mr. Blakely surprised Ms. Blakely as she walked back from her mailbox. He pushed her to the ground, wrapped duct tape around her mouth and head, and taped her wrists together. Apparently very angry, he told Ms. Blakely he wanted her to dismiss the dissolution and trust proceedings. Noting that O.J. Simpson had gotten away with what he did, Mr. Blakely warned his wife to cooperate or he would kill her and Ralphy. He told her he had many guns, ammunition, and several knives. He then forced her to climb into his pickup canopy, where he locked her in a coffin-like plywood box that he had constructed. The box was about the same width and length as Ms. Blakely's body and had air holes drilled into each end. Ms. Blakely heard her husband loading items from the house into the truck. On several occasions, he opened the lid of the box, pressed a knife blade to Ms. Blakely's neck or nose, and demanded to know where various items could be found. As night fell and it became cold, Mr. Blakely put a quilt over his wife in the box.

Ralphy, age 13, arrived home from football practice after dark. His father met him in the driveway, told him his mother was in great danger, and told him not to cause any trouble. They walked to the pickup, where Ralphy heard his mother yelling from the box. Mr. Blakely ordered Ralphy to drive his mother's car and warned him that if he " 'tried anything,' " Mr. Blakely would shoot the box with a shotgun. Clerk's Papers (CP) at 626.

Mr. Blakely drove the pickup out of the orchard and headed east, with Ralphy following in his mother's car. [111 Wn.App. 857] Eventually they stopped at a truck stop on the outskirts of Moses Lake for gas. When Ralphy and his father entered the truck stop to pay, Ralphy shouted, " 'Call 9-1-1! Help us! He kidnapped us! He has my mom in a box!' " CP at 627. Mr. Blakely tried to drag Ralphy to the car, but truckers shouted to him to leave the boy alone. He released Ralphy, ran to the pickup, and took off. Ralphy jumped on the pickup bumper and tried to release his mother from the box, but was knocked off when Mr. Blakely accelerated. Ralphy was left behind at the truck stop.

During the subsequent trip to Montana, Mr. Blakely removed the tape from his wife's head and let her sit in the front seat so she could tell any police who stopped them that she was accompanying him of her own free will. He was angry because " 'Ralphy ruined everything!' " CP at 627. On occasion, Mr. Blakely forced Ms. Blakely back into the box. In all, she was locked in the box for over four hours.

They eventually arrived at the house of Mary Gillespie, who lived close to their Montana home. Mr. Blakely let his wife enter Ms. Gillespie's house while he called their older daughter and demanded that she stop the divorce and trust litigation. He also called a stockbroker, received stock quotations, and gave the broker sell orders. Meanwhile, Ms. Blakely and Ms. Gillespie surreptitiously planned to call for help. When Mr. Blakely sent Ms. Gillespie on an errand to a nearby house, she called the police. Officers soon arrived and Mr. Blakely sent his wife out to tell them that she had come to Montana voluntarily. Instead, she reported that she had been kidnapped, and he was arrested without incident.

Mr. Blakely was charged in federal court with two counts of kidnapping. These charges were later dismissed and the State filed two charges of first degree kidnapping, each involving domestic violence, in October 1998. He pleaded not guilty, with a defense of insanity or diminished capacity.

Mr. Blakely has been diagnosed at various times since 1972 as suffering from schizophrenia. The trial court in the Blakely Farms Trust litigation held a hearing in February

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1999 to determine whether the court should appoint a [111 Wn.App. 858] guardian ad litem to represent Mr. Blakely's interests in the trust and dissolution actions. Based on his psychiatric history and a psychologist's recent conclusion that Mr. Blakely suffered "clear mental deficiencies," Def.'s Ex. 2, the civil court appointed a guardian ad litem in early March 1999.

Within days, the State in the criminal action obtained an order for an evaluation at Eastern State Hospital of Mr. Blakely's competency. After reviewing Mr. Blakely's 27-year psychiatric history as well as the results of his current examination, evaluators Dr. Vern Cressey and Dr. Timm Fredrickson concluded that he had high average intelligence, had never been a paranoid schizophrenic, and suffered instead from a severe personality disorder with schizotypal and narcissistic components. Noting his multiple legal difficulties over the years, their report also surmised that Mr. Blakely only sought psychiatric treatment when he was "embroiled in legal issues." CP at 70. On the basis of this evaluation, the criminal trial court entered an order of competency in May 1999.

Because defense counsel continued to have difficulty communicating with Mr. Blakely, the trial court ordered another evaluation in September 1999 to determine whether Mr. Blakely could assist counsel and appreciate the import of the criminal proceedings. The report from this round of evaluations stated that Mr. Blakely began the stay at Eastern with "elective mutism" and "struggl[ed] to find something wrong with himself physically." CP at 291. In the opinion of the evaluators, he was well aware of the court proceedings--including the options and consequences of various pleas--and he had the capacity to understand and assist in his own defense. Despite the evaluation results, defense counsel demanded a jury trial on the issue of Mr. Blakely's competency to stand trial. Finding that RCW 10.77.090 authorizes a pretrial jury determination of competency, the trial court granted the motion. 1

[111 Wn.App. 859] The criminal competency trial was held in April 2000. Mr. Blakely's counsel sought to introduce the trust court's order appointing the guardian ad litem. This order included a finding that Mr. Blakely "is not competent at this time [March 1999] to comprehend with understanding and intelligence the significance of the entire legal proceedings and their effect on and relationship to his best interests." Def.'s Ex. 1, at 2. Although the criminal trial court found that the civil court's order was not really an adjudication of incompetence, it decided to allow admission of the order at the competency hearing. Later, when defense counsel objected to the trial court's refusal to instruct the jury that the civil court's order raised a rebuttable presumption of incompetence, the trial court ruled as a matter of law that the order appointing the guardian ad litem did not constitute an adjudication of incompetence. The jury found that Mr. Blakely was competent to stand trial on the criminal charges.

Trial was set for July 2000. On July 18, the court conducted a hearing on a plea agreement. The State offered to amend the charges to one count of second degree domestic violence kidnapping with a deadly weapon enhancement (RCW 9A.40.030(1), 10.99.020, former 9.94A.125 (1983)) and one count of second degree domestic violence assault (RCW 9A.36.021(1)(c), 10.99.020). In exchange for the amended charges and a recommendation for a sentence in the high end of the standard range, Mr. Blakely agreed to an Alford plea of guilty. 2 Although Mr. Blakely complained that he could not think clearly due to the intolerable conditions in his jail cell, the trial court eventually determined that Mr. Blakely understood the charges and the agreement.

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[111 Wn.App. 860] At the sentencing hearing two weeks later, Mr. Blakely attempted to withdraw the guilty plea, claiming he was pressured by...

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