State v. Frazier

Decision Date17 March 1983
Docket NumberNos. 48964-5,49004-0,s. 48964-5
Citation661 P.2d 126,99 Wn.2d 180
PartiesSTATE of Washington, Respondent, v. Robert Andre FRAZIER, a/k/a Robert Andre Silver, Appellant. STATE of Washington, Respondent, v. Kirk R. SPENCER, Appellant.
CourtWashington Supreme Court

Soriano, Soriano, Lowans & Peterson, Thurman W. Lowans, Bremerton, Ellis, Wecker & Hunko, Robert A. Ellis, Silverdale, for appellant.

C. Danny Clem, Kitsap County Prosecutor, Gregg Eric Johnsen, Patricia A. Toth, Deputies, Port Orchard, for respondent.


The common issue in these consolidated cases is whether a juvenile defendant has the right to plead guilty to criminal charges in juvenile court, thereby avoiding adult criminal prosecution, when there is a pending motion to have the juvenile court decline jurisdiction pursuant to RCW 13.40.110(1)(a). In each of the cases before us, the juvenile court determined there was no right to plead guilty to the juvenile court charges. Consequently, appellants Robert Andre Frazier and Kirk R. Spencer were remanded to adult court for trial where they were convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment for first degree felony murder. We affirm.

On August 5, 1981, Robert Andre Frazier and Kirk R. Spencer robbed and severely beat an 82-year-old gentleman named Olando J. Enger outside a Bremerton restaurant. The injuries sustained by Mr. Enger were serious enough to require immediate hospitalization. Later that same day, appellants were arrested by the Bremerton police and transported to the station. Once there, appellant Spencer gave a tape recorded statement about the events of the robbery to Detective Larry D. Worland of the Bremerton Police Department. Appellant Frazier also spoke with Detective Worland, giving a somewhat different version of the events.

At the time of the first preliminary hearing in Kitsap County Juvenile Court, appellant Frazier was 16 years old. (At the time of the crime, he was 15 years and 361 days old.) Appellant Spencer was 17 years of age.

On August 7, 1981, the State filed criminal informations in Kitsap County Superior Court, Juvenile Division, charging each appellant with robbery in the first degree. At the same time, the State also filed a notice of its intent to seek a declination of juvenile court jurisdiction pursuant to RCW 13.40.110, so that the cases could be transferred to adult criminal court for trial.

Mr. Enger remained in the hospital for several days, showed some signs of recovery from the beating, but then lapsed into a coma and died on August 10, 1981. There was sufficient expert medical testimony presented to establish that Mr. Enger died as a direct result of the beating he received from appellants.

On August 11, 1981, amended informations were filed in Kitsap County Juvenile Court, charging each appellant with conspiracy to commit first degree robbery, first degree robbery, and first degree felony murder. Again, the State filed written motions seeking a declination of jurisdiction by the juvenile court under RCW 13.40.110 and according to the guidelines of Kent v. United States, 383 U.S. 541, 86 S.Ct. 1045, 16 L.Ed.2d 84 (1966).

Several preliminary motions were set for the next day, August 12, 1981, before Juvenile Court Judge Jay W. Hamilton. After resolving matters regarding the taking of blood and hair samples from appellants and the adequacy of their legal representation under the amended informations, the court indicated a desire to proceed with arraignment. The prosecutor read the amended informations and the court ascertained that each appellant understood the charges. The court, after being notified that a remand hearing was set for August 21, 1981, instructed that appellants later be advised of the maximum potential penalties should they be convicted as juveniles.

Appellants made a special appearance before Judge James D. Roper on August 13, 1981, seeking to enter pleas of guilty to the three charges alleged in the amended informations. Both defense counsel made offers of proof that their clients stood ready to enter such pleas of guilty. Judge Roper refused to hear the matter, sustaining the State's objection that it had received no notice of the hearing. Arguments were then made for the record as to whether the motion for decline of jurisdiction pursuant to RCW 13.40.110 prevented the juvenile court from receiving guilty pleas.

On August 17, 1981, appellants again appeared before Judge Hamilton seeking to enter guilty pleas in juvenile court. The court then took the matter under advisement for a ruling based upon the briefs submitted. On August 18, 1981, Judge Hamilton issued a memorandum opinion concluding that appellants did not have the right to enter pleas prior to their declination hearings. Formal findings of fact, conclusions of law, and an order based on the court's memorandum opinion were filed on August 20, 1981.

Appellants then sought discretionary, accelerated review in this court of the trial court's ruling on the guilty plea issue. That review was denied. Subsequently, decline hearings were held on August 27 and 28, 1981, and both juveniles were remanded to adult court for trial. Thereafter, appellant Frazier entered a plea of guilty to the charges in superior court and appellant Spencer was found guilty after a jury trial. Each was sentenced to life imprisonment.

On September 7, 1982, we accepted the Frazier case on certification from Division Two of the Court of Appeals. At the same time, Spencer's case was also on appeal to Division Two of the Court of Appeals. Since both cases present the same issue regarding a juvenile offender's right to plead guilty in juvenile court, Spencer's motion to transfer and consolidate the two cases for review was granted by Commissioner Crooks on September 24, 1982. Appellant Spencer raises two additional issues arising from his superior court criminal trial which we shall address separately.


Appellants assign error to the juvenile court's refusal to accept their offers to plead guilty to the charges filed against them in juvenile court. They contend that by virtue of RCW 10.40.060 and language in State v. Martin, 94 Wash.2d 1, 614 P.2d 164 (1980), they were entitled to enter pleas of guilty 1 day after arraignment in juvenile court despite the prosecutor's motion to have the juvenile court decline jurisdiction.

The rules of procedure for juvenile courts are set out in the Juvenile Court Rules (JuCR). JuCR 1.4(b) provides that:

The Superior Court Criminal Rules shall apply in juvenile offense proceedings when not inconsistent with these rules and applicable statutes.

(Italics ours.) JuCR 7.6(a) states that "[t]he arraignment of an alleged juvenile offender is governed by CrR 4.1." JuCR 7.6(b) provides that "[t]he taking of a plea of an alleged juvenile offender is governed by CrR 4.2."

CrR 4.1(a) clearly states that promptly after an information is filed, the defendant should be arraigned. The arraignment procedure essentially consists of ascertaining the defendant's name, advising the defendant of certain rights including the right to counsel, and informing the defendant of the charges that have been filed. CrR 4.1(b)-(e). Appellants argue, and we agree, that they were arraigned before Juvenile Court Judge Hamilton on August 12, 1981, on the amended informations charging each of them with conspiracy to commit first degree robbery, first degree robbery, and first degree felony murder.

Appellants contend that regardless of the prosecutor's notification of his intent to seek a decline of juvenile court jurisdiction, upon arraignment they were immediately afforded the statutory right to enter pleas of guilty. Appellants find this right in RCW 10.40.060, which reads:

In answer to the arraignment, the defendant may move to set aside the indictment or information, or he may demur or plead to it, and is entitled to one day after arraignment in which to answer thereto if he demand it.

(Italics ours.) Appellants interpret this statute to give them the ability to demand to enter pleas of guilty to the juvenile court charges within 1 day of their arraignments. They then argue that since they are entitled to enter pleas of guilty, the juvenile court must accept those guilty pleas under the Martin reasoning.

In Martin, this court addressed the question of a defendant's ability to plead guilty to first degree murder and thereby avoid the possibility of the death penalty. Although we recognized that there is no constitutional right to plead guilty to a criminal charge, United States v. Jackson, 390 U.S. 570, 88 S.Ct. 1209, 20 L.Ed.2d 138 (1968), we noted that "it is well established that the State may confer such a right by statute or by other means. North Carolina v. Alford, 400 U.S. 25, 38 n. 11, 27 L.Ed.2d 162, 91 S.Ct. 160 [168 n. 11] (1970)." Martin, 94 Wash.2d at 4, 614 P.2d 164. We found such a right in CrR 4.2(a), and went on to hold:

Although the State appears to argue to the contrary, we have been informed of no statute or rule of court which grants a trial court authority to decline a plea of guilty made competently, knowingly, voluntarily, unconditionally, unequivocally and on advice of counsel. Moreover, unlike the law in some states, our rules and statutes nowhere suggest that prosecutorial approval is required before a defendant may plead guilty. Accordingly, we hold that in this state, a criminal defendant has the right to plead guilty unhampered by a prosecuting attorney's opinions or desires.

Martin, 94 Wash.2d at 5, 614 P.2d 164.

Appellants insist the above language from Martin is equally applicable to juvenile court guilty pleas made competently, knowingly, voluntarily, unconditionally, unequivocally, and on advice of counsel. They point out that CrR 4.2, as well as the holding in Martin itself, is made applicable to the juvenile courts through JuCR 7.6(b). Therefore appellants argu...

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