State v. Anderson

Decision Date08 September 2022
Docket Number97890-5
Citation516 P.3d 1213
Parties STATE of Washington, Respondent, v. Tonelli ANDERSON, Appellant.
CourtWashington Supreme Court

Lila Jane Silverstein, Washington Appellate Project, 1511 3rd Ave., Ste. 610, Seattle, WA, 98101-1683, Travis Stearns, Washington Appellate Project, 1511 3rd Ave., Ste. 610, Seattle, WA, 98101-3647, for Appellant.

James Morrissey Whisman, King County Pros. Attorney's Office, 516 3rd Ave., Ste. W554, Seattle, WA, 98104-2362, for Respondent.

Vanessa Torres Hernandez, ACLU of Washington, P. O. Box 2728, Seattle, WA, 98111-2728, for Amicus Curiae on behalf of Community Passageways.

Marsha I. Levick, Juvenile Law Center, 1315 Walnut Street, 4th Floor, Philadelphia, PA, 19107, Riya Saha Shah, Juvenile Law Center, 1800 Jfk Boulevard, Suite 1900b, Philadelphia, PA, 19103, for Amicus Curiae on behalf of Juvenile Law Center.

Julia Mizutani, Nancy Lynn Talner, ACLU-WA, P. O. Box 2728, Seattle, WA, 98111-2728, Jaime Michelle Hawk, ACLU-WA, P. O. Box 2728, Seattle, WA, 98104, for Amicus Curiae on behalf of Aclu of Washington.

Robert S. Chang, Melissa R. Lee, Seattle University School of Law, 901 12th Ave., Korematsu Center For Law & Equality, Seattle, WA, 98122-4411, for Amicus Curiae on behalf of Fred T. Korematsu Center for Law and Equality.

Janet S. Chung, Washington State Court of Appeals, 600 University St., Seattle, WA, 98101, Nicholas Broten Straley, Columbia Legal Services, 101 Yesler Way, Ste. 300, Seattle, WA, 98104-2528, for Amicus Curiae on behalf of Columbia Legal Services.

Jeffrey Todd, Even Office of The Attorney Genera,l P. O. Box 40100, 1125 Washington St., Se, Olympia, WA, 98504-0100, for Amicus Curiae on behalf of Wa. State Office of Public Defense.

La Rond Baker, American Civil Liberties Union of Washin., P. O. Box 2728, Seattle, WA, 98111-2728, Katherine Elizabeth Hurley, King County Department of Public Defense, 710 2nd Ave., Ste. 200, Seattle, WA, 98104-1703, for Amicus Curiae on behalf of King County Dept. of Public Defense.

Nikkita Oliver, 100 Renaissance Center, P. O. Box 43946, Detroit, MI, 48243-0946, for Amicus Curiae on behalf of Creative Justice.

Sara Anne Zier, TeamChild, P. O. Box 1512, Tacoma, WA, 98401-1512, for Amicus Curiae on behalf of TeamChild.


¶ 1 Tonelli Anderson is serving a 61-year sentence for two first degree murders he committed at age 17. Anderson asks us to hold that his sentence is unconstitutionally cruel in violation of article I, section 14 of Washington's constitution. He argues that this court's recent decision in State v. Haag1 announced a bright line rule that no juvenile offender can ever receive a sentence of 46 years or longer—no matter how serious or numerous their crimes may be—and so his sentence is unconstitutional because it is longer than 46 years. We disagree with Anderson's interpretation of Haag .

¶ 2 Haag is properly understood as announcing that article I, section 14 of Washington's constitution limits the category of juvenile offenders who can receive de facto life without parole (LWOP) sentences, the harshest punishments possible for juvenile offenders under Washington law. In Haag , we determined that a particular juvenile offender could not receive such a harsh punishment because his crime reflected youthful immaturity, impetuosity, and failure to appreciate risks and consequences. But when, as here, a juvenile offender's crimes do not reflect those mitigating qualities of youth, Washington's constitution does not bar a de facto LWOP sentence.

¶ 3 The King County Superior Court properly considered all of Anderson's evidence regarding the mitigating qualities of his youth and his rehabilitation while in prison. In light of that evidence and the trial record, the court appropriately determined that Anderson's crimes do not reflect youthful immaturity, impetuosity, or failure to appreciate risks and consequences. Article I, section 14 of Washington's constitution therefore does not prohibit Anderson's 61-year sentence. We affirm.2


¶ 4 In September 1994, 17-year-old Anderson and his friend, Porshay Austin, went to James Bateman's home to buy cocaine. Austin had purchased drugs from Bateman twice before. But this time, Anderson and Austin planned to steal Bateman's drugs and to kill him and any witnesses. Austin apparently took the lead.

¶ 5 When Anderson and Austin arrived, they sat in the living room and chatted with Bateman. Bateman's partner, Lynell Ricardos, soon brought out a quarter kilogram of cocaine from a bedroom. She handed the package to Bateman and returned to the bedroom. When Ricardos left the living room, Austin pulled out a handgun and shot Bateman multiple times.

¶ 6 As Austin killed Bateman, Anderson pulled out his own gun and ran down the hallway to the bedroom. There he found Ricardos, Kristin McMullen, and Ricardos's two-year-old son. Anderson shot each of the women twice, killing McMullen and gravely wounding Ricardos. When Ricardos's son grabbed Anderson's leg, Anderson kicked the toddler away. Anderson and Austin fled the scene and locked the door behind them.

¶ 7 Anderson was not immediately apprehended, and he continued to commit serious crimes. In 1995, Anderson was adjudicated guilty of various juvenile offenses and sentenced to a year in juvenile custody. While in juvenile custody, Anderson wrote about his 1994 crimes in letters to girlfriends. See Clerk's Papers (CP) at 267-68 ("Remember I told you about that shit me and that [M]exican did down in Kent? Well, it happened again, but this time it happened with Porshay, and we did it for a qua[r]ter kilo of powder! But I messed up and left a witness but they only knew Porshay[’]s name! I think I might [have] left fingerprints, but they haven't c[o]me and charged me."), 269 ("I tell you things that if Porshay found out I told you he'd want me to kill you! I already have to worry about that bitch Marcy telling someone what Kim told her. [I]f she does I'll go to the penitent[i]ary for the rest of my life or I can get the death penalty because it was premeditated!"). Anderson even sent his girlfriends photographs of his victims that he had found in a magazine. CP at 261-62 ("The people in the picture are the people I told you we did that to[ ]!").

¶ 8 Anderson generally did well in juvenile custody, where he received extensive treatment and opportunities for rehabilitation. But after his release, Anderson quickly accumulated five adult felony convictions: first degree assault, first degree robbery, unlawful imprisonment, unlawful possession of a firearm, and delivery of cocaine. While Anderson was serving his sentence for those felonies, the State received an anonymous tip that led investigators to Anderson's inculpatory letters.

¶ 9 The State charged Anderson for the 1994 murders in 1998. In light of Anderson's youth and the progress he had made while in juvenile custody, the State decided not to charge Anderson with various aggravators that could have justified an exceptional sentence above the standard range. Those grounds for an exceptional sentence included that there was "a child present when the shooting took place," that the shooting "was designed to hinder law enforcement in the investigation of the killing of James Bateman," that there was "more than one victim in this case," and that Anderson had "uncounted misdemeanor history" and "uncounted juvenile court history that includes violent offenses such as Robbery in the Second Degree." CP at 137. The State also declined to charge Anderson for attempted murder or assault for his shooting of Ricardos, who was left blind in one eye and with a bullet permanently lodged in her head, or for his assault of her son, who still "suffers from mental illness because of what happened ... at the age that he was." CP at 1; 1 Tr. of Mot. Hr'g (Tr.) at 12.


¶ 10 Following a bench trial in 2000, the King County Superior Court convicted Anderson on two counts of first degree murder. At sentencing, Anderson said, "I understand that the victims’ families, you know, feel pain, whatever. They expressed it, you know, right here, you know, and—(shrugged shoulders)—I can't say that I'm sorry for anything because I'm still claiming my innocence." CP at 153. Noting that it "would have seriously considered an exceptional sentence up if it had been requested," the trial court imposed the longest sentence available within the standard range: 736 months (just over 61 years). CP at 155. The trial court did not, however, address the potentially mitigating qualities of Anderson's youth. Anderson timely appealed his convictions and sentence, and the Court of Appeals affirmed in an unpublished per curiam opinion. State v. Anderson , noted at 111 Wash. App. 1022, 2002 WL 753215 (2002).

¶ 11 In 2018, Anderson moved to be resentenced "pursuant to RCW 10.95.030(3)(a)(ii) and Miller v. Alabama , 567 U.S. 460, 132 S. Ct. 2455, 183 L. Ed. 2d 407 (2012)." CP at 30. He requested an exceptional sentence below the standard range: 320 months, less than half the length of his original sentence. The State agreed to a resentencing hearing but urged the resentencing court "to re-impose the same sentence of 736 months" because "[n]othing on the record ... supports a conclusion that the defendant's youth diminished his culpability for these offenses." CP at 111. The King County Superior Court granted Anderson's request for a resentencing hearing.

¶ 12 At the hearing, Anderson argued that "[t]he facts of the case established that he acted with impulsivity and immaturity" and that "[h]e has tried to make himself a better person while in custody." CP at 41. In support of his argument, Anderson submitted three articles that described scientific studies regarding juvenile brain development, though he did not submit the studies themselves. Anderson presented three supportive letters: one stating that "Anderson was a reliable and dependable worker once he settled down and became acclimated to the...

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1 cases
  • In re Spears
    • United States
    • Washington Court of Appeals
    • May 23, 2023
    ... ... Dr. Cripe evaluated Spears and concluded ... that at the time of his crimes, "[Spears] was in a ... psychotic state with his behavior driven by paranoid ... delusions and hallucinations because of a combination of ... substance abuse of PCP and mental ... reflected mitigating circumstances of youth. Id. at ... 313, 324-25; cf. State v. Anderson, 200 Wn.2d 266, ... 281, 516 P.3d 1213 (2022) (Haag does not represent a ... categorical ban on de facto LWOP sentences for juveniles, ... ...

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