State v. Booth

Decision Date05 December 2022
Docket Number82751-1-I
Citation521 P.3d 196
Parties The STATE of Washington, Respondent, v. Julius T. BOOTH, Appellant.
CourtWashington Court of Appeals

Prosecuting Atty. King County, King Co. Pros./App. Unit Supervisor, W554 King County Courthouse, 516 Third Avenue, Seattle, WA, 98104, Donna Lynn Wise, King County Prosecutor's Office, 516 3rd Ave. Ste. W554, Seattle, WA, 98104-2362, for Respondent.

PUBLISHED OPINION

Smith, A.C.J.

¶1 Julius Booth led the police in a half-hour long, high-speed pursuit while his partner, who had a no-contact order against Booth, and two children were in the car. He was convicted of attempting to elude a police officer and felony violation of a no-contact order. He contends on appeal that the Washington Constitution's article I, sections 21 and 22 create a right to the use of peremptory strikes during jury selection that was violated when the trial court erroneously denied his motion to dismiss a potential juror for cause. He also asserts that the trial court's ex parte dismissal of a seated juror who was ill violated his rights to be present at critical stages of trial and have counsel at critical stages of trial. He finally argues that his two convictions should merge because they were based on the same act.

¶2 Concluding that there is no right to peremptory strikes in criminal trials under the Washington Constitution, that the dismissal of the ill juror was an administrative matter rather than a critical stage, and that the relevant statutes indicate the legislature's intent to punish Booth's offenses separately, we affirm.

FACTS

Events leading to Arrest

¶3 Julius Booth, his girlfriend Jorden Gaytan-Roybal, and her two children, of whom Booth is the father of one, were living in their car in December 2020. Though they lived together, Booth was prohibited from contacting Gaytan-Roybal by a no contact order. One afternoon, one of the children vomited in the car, leading Booth and Gaytan-Roybal to argue.

¶4 A King County Sheriff detective, Koby Hamill, happened to pass by. He testified at trial that Gaytan-Roybal appeared "visibly upset," was slamming her hand against the side of the car, and was repeatedly screaming "[g]ive me my baby." Hamill stated that Booth angrily exited the car, approached Gaytan-Roybal, and demanded she get back in the vehicle. Hamill testified that Booth forced Gaytan-Roybal toward the car with his body as she resisted, eventually pushing her inside. In her testimony at trial, Gaytan-Roybal denied that Booth used force.

¶5 With Gaytan-Roybal in the car and Hamill following, Booth began to drive, eventually getting on Interstate 5. Booth's driving was jerky and erratic, leading Hamill to believe there was "some activity taking place in the car." Hamill called for other officers to assist, and they arrived with their emergency lights activated. While they were attempting to pull Booth over, he instead crossed "all the way over" the highway and accelerated away.

¶6 The chase lasted for nearly half an hour. The officers pursued Booth and called for the assistance of Guardian One, a police helicopter. Booth, travelling faster than the cars around him, repeatedly crossed from one side of the highway to another. When he and his pursuers hit traffic, Booth drove on the shoulder of the highway. After some time, he aggressively crossed traffic and exited onto South 320th Street, near Auburn. Booth drove through at least one red light, temporarily losing his pursuers. Officers discovered him again at South 342nd Street, at which point Booth turned into oncoming traffic for a short time. Travelling at speeds between 60 and 87 miles per hour, Booth continued on, barreling through red lights. The pursuit continued onto Pacific Highway, where officers attempted to use "stop sticks"1 to flatten tires of Booth's car, which failed when he veered into a parking lot to avoid them. Booth eventually reentered the interstate, this time heading south in the northbound lanes. The chase ended when the police successfully stopped his car with a "pit maneuver," striking the back corner of the vehicle with one of their own to cause it to rotate and stop.

¶7 Booth was arrested and charged with first degree kidnapping, felony violation of a no contact order (FVNCO), and attempting to elude a police vehicle. The matter eventually went to trial.

Jury Selection and Challenges to Prospective Juror No. 4

¶8 Before the parties spoke directly with prospective jurors, the court sent out and received answers to a questionnaire. A number of answers from Prospective Juror No. 4 indicated to the court and the parties that she might be biased. When asked whether she, a relative, or a close friend had been the victim of some form of domestic violence, she disclosed that a close friend had hit his pregnant wife. When asked whether she had religious or philosophical views preventing her from remaining impartial in the case, she answered "[y]es." Asked to explain, she wrote: "If it's domestic violence or the kidnapping is of a child it might be hard to be impartial." When asked whether she could follow the law regardless of what she personally believed the law should be, she denied that she could. Asked to elaborate, she wrote, "[n]ot sure." Finally, in response to the question "[c]an you be a fair and impartial juror to both parties in this case," she responded "[n]o." Her explanation of her asserted partiality was again terse: "[n]ot sure."

¶9 The parties had the opportunity to question the jurors about their answers to the questionnaire during voir dire. At the prosecutor's urging, Prospective Juror No. 4 expanded on her experience with domestic violence: a good friend of her husband had assaulted his wife and, though the incident did not lead to criminal charges, it did result in the end of the friendship. This inspired the following exchange:

[PROSECUTOR]: ... Is there anything about that particular experience that causes you to be concerned about being a fair, impartial juror in this case?
PROSPECTIVE JUROR [NO. 4]: Well, I—I suppose I can't really answer that question for you. I mean, yeah. Would it—would it make me think twice about—yeah. Certainly would.

The prosecutor then moved on to another prospective juror.2

¶10 After the potential jurors had been temporarily released, Booth's attorney challenged Prospective Juror No. 4 for cause because "[s]he seemed reluctant to affirm that ... it wouldn't be a problem [to be fair]. ... [A]nd just her demeanor when she was describing it." The trial court denied the challenge. Booth used his first peremptory on Prospective Juror No. 4.

Excusal of Seated Jurors and Verdict

¶11 By the close of jury selection, the court and counsel had chosen 14 jurors, two of whom were to be randomly selected as alternates and dismissed at the end of trial. Opening statements were heard on May 27, 2021. On June 1, the second full day of trial, the court heard from Juror 14 that she had fallen and needed medical attention. She was dismissed after the court checked with counsel off-record to ensure they had no objection.

¶12 The court opened the third day's proceedings by informing counsel that he had excused a second juror who had called in sick. Juror 13 had reached out to the bailiff early in the morning, feeling ill but hoping his symptoms would resolve after he took a shower. Following up later in the morning, he reported that they had not. He did not believe the sickness was COVID-19.3 The court then made the decision, without first consulting counsel, to excuse Juror 13.4 It expressed to counsel that because their buffer of alternate jurors had dissolved, it hoped to finish testimony that day.

¶13 Booth's attorney objected, arguing that because trial was otherwise ahead of schedule, he believed they could wait to see if Juror 13's symptoms resolved. He reasoned: "I ... want to make sure that the jury we picked ... is the jury for ... Mr. Booth's case. ... I want that juror. He's—he's also a person of color. My client's a person of color." The court noted the objection, but emphasized that "for all the reasons I previously stated, unfortunately, Juror 13 was excused."

¶14 Trial proceeded to verdict. The jury found Booth not guilty of the kidnapping charges, but found him guilty of FVNCO and attempting to elude a police officer.

¶15 Booth appeals.

ANALYSIS
Dismissal of Prospective Juror No. 4

¶16 Booth first attempts to challenge the trial court's denial of his motion to strike a prospective juror for cause. He contends that the denial was erroneous, required him to use a peremptory challenge to keep the juror off the case, and therefore violated a right to the use of peremptory strikes during criminal jury selection arising under either Washington Constitution article I, section 21 alone or in conjunction with Washington Constitution article, I section 22. This court has already determined that article I, section 22 does not, on its own, provide greater protections than its federal counterpart, the Sixth Amendment to the United States Constitution. State v. Munzanreder, 199 Wash. App. 162, 398 P.3d 1160 (2017).5 And Booth's attempts to locate a constitutional protection of peremptory strikes in either article I, section 21, concerning which proceedings require trial by jury, or some combination of the two articles are unconvincing. We hold that those provisions do not create a right to the use of peremptory challenges in criminal jury selection.

¶17 The Sixth Amendment and article I, section 22 of the Washington Constitution both guarantee criminal defendants the right to trial by an "impartial jury." U.S. CONST. amend VI ; WASH. CONST. art. I, § 22. There are two means by which parties may seek to exclude a prospective juror from being...

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1 cases
  • State v. Morris
    • United States
    • Washington Court of Appeals
    • January 22, 2024
    ... ...          1 ... Article 1, Section 21 ...          This ... court recently addressed whether article 1, section 21 of our ... state constitution applied to jury selection and concluded it ... did not. State v. Booth , 24 Wn.App. 2d 586, 604-05, ... 521 P.3d 196, review denied , 1 Wn.3d 1006, 526 P.3d ... 849 (2022) ... In Booth , we engaged in a ... Gunwall [ 8 ] analysis to address whether article I, ... sections 21 and 22 of our state constitution protected the ... ...

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