State v. Homan

Citation181 Wash.2d 102,330 P.3d 182
Decision Date31 July 2014
Docket NumberNo. 88339–4.,88339–4.
CourtUnited States State Supreme Court of Washington
PartiesSTATE of Washington, Petitioner, v. Russell David HOMAN, Respondent.

OPINION TEXT STARTS HERE

Sara I. Beigh, Lewis County Prosecutors Office, Chehalis, WA, for Petitioner.

Jodi R. Backlund, Backlund & Mistry, Olympia, WA, for Respondent.

WIGGINS, J.

¶ 1 Russell David Homan was convicted of child luring under Washington's luring statute, RCW 9A.40.090. On appeal, Homan argued that his conviction violated his Fourteenth Amendment 1 right to due process because the evidence was insufficient for conviction and that RCW 9A. 40.090 is unconstitutionally overbroad in violation of the First Amendment. 2 The Court of Appeals reversed the conviction due to insufficiency of evidence.

¶ 2 The State timely appealed the reversal, and we granted review on the sufficiency of evidence issue. We decline to rule on the overbreadth issue because it would benefit from additional briefing and argument.3 We hold that there was sufficient evidence to find that Homan lured a minor and remand the case to the Court of Appeals to decide the overbreadth issue.

FACTS

¶ 3 Early one summer evening in the small rural community of Doty, Washington, 9–year–old C.C.N. was sent by his mother to the nearby store to buy milk. As he was walking along the road toward the general store, Homan, a 37–year–old man, rode past on a child's Superman BMX bicycle. As Homan rode by, he said, “Do you want some candy? I've got some at my house.” C.C.N. said nothing and continued walking. Homan rode on without slowing, stopping, or looking back. There were two other children nearby, but Homan was closest to C.C.N. when he spoke.

¶ 4 C.C.N. did not know Homan and told his mother about the incident when he returned home. She drove him back into town where they saw Homan on his Superman BMX bicycle. C.C.N.'s mother called the sheriff's office, and Sergeant Robert Snaza spoke with Homan, who admitted riding his bicycle in the general store's vicinity.

¶ 5 The State charged Homan with one count of luring. During his bench trial, Homan moved for dismissal based on insufficiency of evidence. The trial court denied his motion and found Homan guilty as charged. After denying Homan's motion for reconsideration, again based on a sufficiency challenge, the trial court imposed a standard range sentence of 120 days.

¶ 6 Homan timely appealed his conviction, arguing that the State produced insufficient evidence to support his conviction and that the luring statute, RCW 9A.40.090, is unconstitutionally overbroad. The Court of Appeals found the evidence insufficient to support Homan's conviction and reversed and remanded for dismissal with prejudice. State v. Homan, 172 Wash.App. 488, 493, 290 P.3d 1041 (2012). Accordingly, the appellate court did not reach the overbreadth issue. Id. The State timely appealed the reversal, and we granted review. State v. Homan, 177 Wash.2d 1022, 303 P.3d 1064(2013).

ANALYSIS

¶ 7 To determine whether sufficient evidence supports a conviction, we view the evidence in the light most favorable to the prosecution and determine whether any rational fact finder could have found the elements of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt. State v. Engel, 166 Wash.2d 572, 576, 210 P.3d 1007 (2009). Specifically, following a bench trial, appellate review is limited to determining whether substantial evidence supports the findings of fact and, if so, whether the findings support the conclusions of law. State v. Stevenson, 128 Wash.App. 179, 193, 114 P.3d 699 (2005). “ Substantial evidence” is evidence sufficient to persuade a fair-minded person of the truth of the asserted premise. Id. We treat unchallenged findings of facts and findings of fact supported by substantial evidence as verities on appeal. Schmidt v. Cornerstone Invs., Inc., 115 Wash.2d 148, 169, 795 P.2d 1143 (1990). We review challenges to a trial court's conclusions of law de novo. State v. Gatewood, 163 Wash.2d 534, 539, 182 P.3d 426 (2008).

¶ 8 In claiming insufficient evidence, the defendant necessarily admits the truth of the State's evidence and all reasonable inferences that can be drawn from it. State v. Salinas, 119 Wash.2d 192, 201, 829 P.2d 1068 (1992); State v. Drum, 168 Wash.2d 23, 35, 225 P.3d 237 (2010). These inferences “must be drawn in favor of the State and interpreted most strongly against the defendant.” Salinas, 119 Wash.2d at 201, 829 P.2d 1068; accord State v. Kilburn, 151 Wash.2d 36, 57–58, 84 P.3d 1215 (2004) (Owens, J., dissenting). Further, we must defer to the trier of fact for purposes of resolving conflicting testimony and evaluating the persuasiveness of the evidence. State v. Jackson, 129 Wash.App. 95, 109, 117 P.3d 1182(2005).

¶ 9 We hold that there was sufficient evidence that Homan lured a child under RCW 9A.40.090. The State has met its burden by proving all the necessary elements of luring beyond a reasonable doubt. See In re Winship, 397 U.S. 358, 362–65, 90 S.Ct. 1068, 25 L.Ed.2d 368 (1970).

¶ 10 A person commits the crime of luring if the person:

(1)(a) Orders, lures, or attempts to lure a minor or a person with a developmental disability into any area or structure that is obscured from or inaccessible to the public, or away from any area or structure constituting a bus terminal, airport terminal, or other transportation terminal, or into a motor vehicle;

(b) Does not have the consent of the minor's parent or guardian or of the guardian of the person with a developmental disability; and

(c) Is unknown to the child or developmentally disabled person.

(2) It is a defense to luring, which the defendant must prove by a preponderance of the evidence, that the defendant's actions were reasonable under the circumstances and the defendant did not have any intent to harm the health, safety, or welfare of the minor or the person with the developmental disability.

RCW 9A.40.090. Case law defines “lure” as an invitation accompanied by an enticement. State v. Dana, 84 Wash.App. 166, 176, 926 P.2d 344 (1996).

¶ 11 The parties do not dispute that Homan was a stranger to C.C.N. and that Homan did not have C.C.N.'s mother's consent to speak to C.C.N. Thus, the only issue is whether Homan attempted to lure C.C.N. into an area or structure obscured from or inaccessible to the public. The Court of Appeals held that the evidence failed to prove both an invitation and an enticement. We disagree and reverse the appellate court.

I. Sufficient Evidence of Invitation and Enticement

¶ 12 We hold that Homan's statement [d]o you want some candy? I've got some at my house” is an invitation and an enticement, proof of which is sufficient to sustain a luring conviction. RCW 9A.40.090 does not require proof of unlawful purpose or intent.

¶ 13 The Court of Appeals incorrectly held that Homan's statements did not constitute an invitation because his words were only an offer of candy and a statement regarding its location. Homan, 172 Wash.App. at 492–93, 290 P.3d 1041. But considering Homan's statements in context, a rational trier of fact could find beyond a reasonable doubt that Homan invited C.C.N. to his house to receive the offered candy. RCW 9A.40.090 does not require that a particular form of statement or address be used to lure. Homan's statements can easily be interpreted as an implied enticement and invitation, even though they are phrased as a question and an assertion of fact. Accord id. (Hunt, J., dissenting).

¶ 14 The Court of Appeals also reasoned that the statements were neither an invitation nor an enticement because Homan did not slow down or stop, or even look backward when he spoke. Id. at 492, 290 P.3d 1041. But the statute does not require that there be conduct. A person commits the crime of luring if the person [o]rders, lures, or attempts to lure....” RCW 9A.40.090(1)(a). These acts may be committed with words alone. See, e.g.,Webster's Third New International Dictionary 1347, 1588 (2002) (“lure” means to “entice”; “order” means to “command” or “to give orders”). With his words, Homan attempted to lure C.C.N. when he told C.C.N. he had candy at his house and asked if C.C.N. wanted some. Accord Homan, 172 Wash.App. at 494–95, 290 P.3d 1041 (Hunt, J., dissenting).

II. Sufficient Evidence That Homan Attempted To Lure a Minor “into” an Area Inaccessible to the Public

¶ 15 Homan also argues that the brief communication he had with C.C.N. does not prove an attempt to lure C.C.N. inside a house. At most, the evidence shows an invitation to a house, which does not prove luring, unless the house is on property obscured from or inaccessible to the public. We reject this argument.

¶ 16 RCW 9A.40.090 makes it unlawful for any person to invite a child “into any area or structure” away from the public. Thus, the statute does not require that the invitation be into an enclosed structure. Rather, it recognizes that some open-air “areas” are obscured from public access. Indeed, the provision was amended in 1995 to specifically address the act of luring minors into a secluded area, whether or not the area is a structure. H.B. Rep. on S.B. 5039, 54th Leg., Reg. Sess. (Wash.1995). And because there is no way to go “into” an area without going “to” that area and vice versa, we reject this distinction. By adding “area” to the statute, the legislature intended to make criminal invitations to or into places inaccessible to the public. Requiring that Homan explicitly invite C.C.N. into his home ignores the plain purpose of the statute.

¶ 17 In any case, we hold that there was substantial evidence that Homan attempted to lure C.C.N. “into” a “structure” away from the public. RCW 9A.40.090(1)(a). A reasonable trier of fact could have found that an invitation “to a house” implied an invitation to enter the house to receive the offered candy. See State v. Salinas, 119 Wash.2d 192, 201, 829 P.2d 1068 (1992) (all reasonable inferences found from evidence must be drawn in favor of state). This is unlike State v....

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