State Of Wash. v. Bell, 62552-7-I

CourtCourt of Appeals of Washington
Decision Date20 December 2010
Docket NumberNo. 62552-7-I,62552-7-I
PartiesSTATE OF WASHINGTON, Respondent, v. CLIFTON KELLY BELL, Appellant.


No. 62552-7-I


FILED: December 20, 2010


Appelwick, J.

Bell appeals his fourteen convictions resulting from several acts of domestic violence, witness tampering, and violations of a domestic violence no-contact order. Bell also appeals the jury's special verdict that one count involved a domestic violence pattern of abuse under RCW 9.94A.535(3)(h)(i). Bell raises several arguments in this appeal. Bell argues that he received ineffective assistance of counsel on several grounds, including failure to renew a severance motion, failure to move for a separate proceeding for the pattern of abuse aggravating circumstance, failure to object to the admission of certain evidence, and failure to raise a same criminal conduct

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argument at sentencing. Bell also claims that he was denied his right to unanimous jury verdicts on several grounds. Bell alleges that the statute authorizing the pattern of abuse aggravating circumstance is void for vagueness and overbroad. Bell also challenges the language of a verdict form and multiple jury instructions as inaccurate and constituting improper comments on the evidence. Finally, the State concedes that under State v. Hall, 168 Wn.2d 726, 230 P.3d 1048 (2010), several witness tampering charges constituted a single unit of prosecution, but the parties dispute whether more than one unit of prosecution remain. We hold that only one unit of prosecution exists for the witness tampering charges and reverse counts V, VI, VII, and VIII. We otherwise affirm the convictions.


J.F. moved from Port Townsend to the Seattle area for school when she was 17 years old. She met 18 year old Clifton Bell through a mutual friend soon after arriving in Seattle. J.F. and Bell dated for about two and a half years. Early in their relationship, Bell moved in with J.F. who had rented an apartment in the Shoreline area, located in King County. At first, their relationship was generally good. But, shortly after they moved in together, Bell began physically abusing J.F. At trial, J.F. testified to physical abuse occurring during their relationship.

The first conflict occurred when J.F. and Bell had friends over to their apartment. Bell's friend asked J.F. to hand him something. J.F. testified that Bell replied, "'You don't ask her to hand you anything. You ask me to tell her to

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hand it to you.'" After their guests left, J.F. confronted Bell about his disrespectful behavior. Bell "got really mad" and "started yelling at" J.F. He then grabbed J.F.'s nose ring and ripped it partially out, causing it to bleed. He also grabbed her neck, continuing to yell.

On February 17, 2006, another conflict occurred. That night, a friend called Bell and asked if he could drop off his girl friend at J.F.'s apartment. Bell agreed without consulting J.F. After he hung up, J.F. angrily approached him, and Bell grabbed her arm and threw her, dislocating her shoulder.

Bell testified in his own defense. He agreed that on February 17 he and J.F. had a disagreement. He said that J.F. sprinted to answer the phone before Bell and tripped over the coffee table. When she fell, she hit the armrest of the couch, causing the shoulder dislocation.

On July 26, 2006, J.F. was living in her own apartment in Lynnwood, in Snohomish County. The apartment was on the second story and had a private balcony. Bell was visiting and J.F. demanded that he return his key to her apartment. Knowing that Bell had reached a level of anger where he could potentially be violent, J.F. stood outside the front door of the apartment and asked him to toss her the key. Bell told her to come and get the key. When she reached for the key, Bell pulled her into the apartment. Bell then started hitting J.F. When she ran for the front door, he closed and bolted it so she could not escape. Hoping to signal someone, she ran towards the balcony. She grabbed the balcony rail to prevent Bell from pulling her by the waist back into the apartment. Bell let go, and J.F. flipped over the rail and onto her back, hitting

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the ground fifteen feet below, causing a fractured hip and internal bleeding.

Bell said that he and J.F. were fighting regarding keys to their respective apartments. He agrees that she demanded her key back. He testified that when he tried to offer her key to her, she turned and sprinted for the balcony, "tackled" the closed screen door, bounced off the screen, and flipped over the balcony.

Around September 30, 2006, J.F. and Bell were dating on and off and not getting along very well. While visiting a friend's house, J.F. and Bell were eating together when J.F. placed her hand on Bell's leg. Bell angrily accused J.F. of wiping ketchup on his pants. When she denied it, Bell stood up and threw a glass plate, hitting her on the head. Blood immediately start flowing from J.F.'s head. Bell apologized and assisted J.F. in stopping the flow of blood.

J.F. and Bell went to his mother's house to get her assistance in tending to the wound. That night they slept in his sister's bed at his mother's house. After apologizing, Bell wanted to have sex. J.F. told Bell, "'No. I don't want to do this.'" Bell forcibly removed her pants and underwear despite her protests. He pinned her down and began having sexual intercourse, telling J.F., "'It will be okay'" while she continued to say no.

Bell disputed the September 30, 2006, incidents entirely. He testified that the only injury J.F. received to her head occurred under different circumstances. He testified that he lived in the bottom apartment of a split level home. He stated that J.F. arrived and became upset when she realized that Bell had been watching a movie with some female friends. He said he cracked open a window to pass her the movie and then closed the window and locked the latch. He

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testified that when he turned away, he heard a noise and looked back, seeing blood on J.F.'s hands and forehead. She left immediately, driving away in her car.

J.F. testified that during another incident, she and Bell were having sex when he suggested anal intercourse. When she refused, Bell penetrated her anus while she cried.

Bell testified that he never had sex with J.F. against her will at any time.

Finally, on September 23, 2007, J.F. lived in a small studio apartment in Lake City, located in King County. Bell lived with J.F. on and off, but they did not live together full-time due to the conflict in their relationship. That day, J.F. and Bell had arranged for Bell to come over when he got off work from his job at a restaurant. J.F. let Bell in when he knocked on the door at about 3:00 a.m. At first things were fine, but then J.F. became angry that Bell was mistreating her dog. When she told Bell to stop, they began to argue. J.F. testified that she could tell Bell had been drinking. J.F. walked out the front door of the apartment and tried to call the dog to come outside. Bell restrained the dog so it could not leave. He then threw J.F.'s cell phone, breaking it. He coaxed J.F. back inside and shut the door behind her. Bell then punched J.F. in the eye, and J.F. began to cry. He then grabbed her and pulled her to the ground. He laid her on her back and sat on her chest with his legs on each side of her, pinning her arms. J.F. testified that Bell swore at her and asked her, "'Do you want to see stars?'" He placed his hands around her neck and squeezed so that she could not breathe for between two and 30 seconds.

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J.F. testified that after the strangulation, Bell stood up and "got nice" and that he put his arm around J.F. and asked her, "'[W]hy do you have to act like that?'" She said he unlocked the front door, saying "'I'll even keep the door unlocked.'" She testified that he calmed down but then "he went right back into what he was before." She explained that by this she meant that "his demeanor" told her that "he wanted to hurt me."

J.F. testified that Bell grabbed her hair and pulled her towards the floor, tearing the hair out of her scalp. He then locked the front door and removed the key to the deadbolt. Because the deadbolt could not be opened from the inside without having a key, this prevented J.F. from leaving. J.F. testified that every time she tried to walk towards the door of the (very small) apartment, he would get between her and the door and tell her that she was not going anywhere. She testified that when she tried to go to the bathroom to see her face he kept "flinch[ing]" at her to scare her. Bell then located some ice for her swelling eye. He also poured her a shot of rum and forced her to drink it despite her protests, threatening to hit her with the bottle if she did not take the shot.

J.F. testified that Bell then started to get "nicer," putting on a movie and helping her make the bed. Suddenly, Bell turned and kicked her into the wall. Finally, the two got in bed and Bell fell asleep. J.F. testified that the time from when Bell arrived at J.F.'s apartment until he fell asleep was about two hours.

Once Bell was asleep, J.F. got out of bed, used a separate key on her car keys to open the deadbolt, and left. She drove to the nearby Safeway and used a pay phone to call 911. The fire department responded, as well as the police.

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J.F. explained to the first responders, including Seattle...

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