State v. Coleman, 080717 WACA, 74916-1-I

Docket Nº:74916-1-I
Opinion Judge:DWYER, J.
Party Name:STATE OF WASHINGTON, Respondent, v. JOHN CALVIN COLEMAN III, Appellant.
Case Date:August 07, 2017
Court:Court of Appeals of Washington




No. 74916-1-I

Court of Appeals of Washington, Division 1

August 7, 2017



A jury found John Coleman III guilty of felony hit and run. On appeal, he contends that the trial court erred in failing to sever his trial from his codefendant's trial. But because Coleman did not move for severance, he has waived the issue. Coleman's claims of ineffective assistance and sentencing error are also without merit. We affirm.


On the evening of October 18, 2013, 21-year-old Natsanet Asegay asked her parents to babysit her baby daughter while she went out with her friend Malika Pa. Around midnight, Pa drove by in a black Acura SUV and picked up Asegay. Pa then picked up two other friends, Briana Manson and Kelani Duell, and drove to an International House of Pancakes (IHOP) on Capitol Hill.

After hanging out at the IHOP for a couple of hours, Pa and her friends left and drove to a nearby gas station. Several individuals, including Coleman, also left the IHOP and followed in other cars.

Duell testified Pa had been drinking and was "a little turned up." Duell argued with Pa about her driving and told her to slow down.

After leaving the gas station, the caravan of five or six cars proceeded southbound on 23rd Avenue South, with a posted speed limit of 30 miles per hour. Coleman was driving the lead vehicle, a silver Saturn.

The music in Pa's car was loud as she drove away from the gas station. All of the young women were "dancing and goofing around in the car." Pa "just wanted to do her own thing" and did not pay attention to the passengers' complaints about her erratic driving. Manson estimated that Pa was traveling about 50 miles per hour. Duell testified that Pa was "speeding" and "swerving" and estimated she was going about 60 miles per hour.

As the cars approached King Street, Pa pulled out into the oncoming lane of traffic and accelerated to pass the cars in front of her. At about the same time, Coleman slowed and began a left turn onto King Street. Pa's car struck Coleman's car at high speed and flipped several times before crashing into a light pole. Coleman's Saturn came to rest about 100 feet from the intersection.

Asegay was ejected through the Acura's sunroof. She died at the scene from massive head trauma. Manson crawled out of the wreckage through the sunroof and then pulled Duell out. Duell suffered a fractured femur.

When Seattle Police officers arrived a few minutes after the accident, both Pa and Coleman had left the area. Pa returned a few hours later with her mother and spoke to the police. Coleman did not return.

While attempting to determine who had been driving the Saturn, Detective Thomas Bacon spoke with Coleman by phone on October 22, 2013. Coleman admitted that he was driving the Saturn at the time of the crash. He explained that he was at the IHOP and had driven off with the other cars. Coleman was on his way to a friend's house to "chill the rest of the night" when the Saturn was "sideswiped" as he attempted to turn left. Coleman estimated he was at the scene for "three [or] four minutes max, " but also claimed he stayed until an ambulance arrived. Coleman also said that he made no attempt to call the police.

A few days after the accident, Coleman sent a text message to Asegay's sister, expressing his condolences and admitting he drove the other car in the accident. Coleman acknowledged he had fled the scene, but claimed he "made sure my bro Ray called the ambulance."

The State charged Coleman with one count of felony hit and run. Pa was charged with vehicular homicide, vehicular assault, felony hit and run, and two counts of reckless endangerment. Following a joint trial, the jury found both defendants guilty as charged. The court sentenced Coleman to a low-end standard term of 41 months.


Coleman contends the trial court erred in failing to sever his trial from his codefendant's trial. He argues that the severity of the multiple charges involving Pa and the related evidence necessarily prejudiced the jury's consideration of his case.

The trial court has broad discretion to grant a severance if "deemed appropriate to promote a fair determination of the guilt or innocence of a defendant." CrR 4.4(c)(2)(i); In re Pers. Restraint of Davis, 152 Wn.2d 647, 711, 101 P.3d 1 (2004). But the failure to move for severance results in a waiver of the issue. CrR 4.4. (a)(1) (severance is waived if defendant does not move for severance before trial or before or at the close of evidence); see also State v. Emery, 174 Wn.2d 741, 754, 278 P.3d 653 (2012).

Coleman never requested to be tried separately. He has therefore waived the severance issue.

Coleman claims the joint trial resulted in a "manifest error affecting a constitutional right" that this court may review under RAP 2.5(a). But he has not provided any meaningful argument to support this conclusory assertion. We therefore decline to consider it. See Saunders v. Lloyd's of London, 113 Wn.2d 330, 345, 779 P.2d 249 (1989) (appellate court will decline to consider issues unsupported by cogent legal argument and citation to relevant authority).


Coleman contends that he was denied effective assistance when defense counsel failed to move for a separate trial, thereby waiving the severance issue. We disagree.

To establish ineffective assistance, Coleman must show both that counsel's performance fell below an objective standard of reasonableness and that the deficient performance prejudiced the outcome of the trial. Strickland v. Washington, 466 U.S. 668, 687, 104 S.Ct. 2052, 80 L.Ed.2d 674 (1984); State v. McFarland, 127 Wn.2d 322, 334-35, 899 P.2d 1251 (1995). "If either...

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