State v. Horton

Decision Date26 July 2016
Docket NumberNo. 46533–7–II,46533–7–II
Citation195 Wash.App. 202,380 P.3d 608
CourtWashington Court of Appeals
Parties State of Washington, Respondent, v. William Charles Horton, Jr. Appellant.

PART PUBLISHED OPINION

Melnick

, J.

¶ 1 William Charles Horton Jr. appeals his conviction for unlawful possession of a firearm in the first degree and murder in the first degree. In the published portion of this opinion, we conclude that article I, section 9 of the Washington Constitution

does not afford greater protections than the United States Constitution regarding waiver of counsel and thus, the trial court did not err by admitting Horton's statements. Additionally, we conclude that a Florida “withheld adjudication” properly served as the predicate offense for Horton's unlawful possession of a firearm conviction.

¶ 2 In the unpublished portion of this opinion, we conclude that the trial court did not abuse its discretion by excluding evidence of the victim's gang affiliation or by declining to instruct the jury on manslaughter. We also conclude that Horton cannot establish his prosecutorial misconduct claim, and as a result, his ineffective assistance of counsel claim also fails. Finally, we conclude that Horton's cumulative error claim is unsupported because he received a fair trial.

¶ 3 We affirm the trial court.

FACTS1

I. THE CRIME

¶ 3 In the early morning of October 24, 2012, police responded to a dispatch call. Dispatch reported that shots were fired and that a witness saw a black male dragging another black male toward the street. When Sergeant Matt Brown and Officers Ryan Moody, Timothy Borchardt, and Noah Dier arrived, they observed what they later discovered to be the dead body of Charles Pitts in the middle of the parking lot.

¶ 4 Before the officers could approach the body, a man, later identified as Horton, ran into the parking lot carrying a gun and yelling.

Horton yelled, “I'm going to kill you, m* * * * *f* * *er” and stood over the body. 4 Report of Proceedings (RP) at 209. The police announced their presence and ordered Horton to get on the ground. Horton obeyed, dropped the gun, and got down on the ground next to the body. The police placed him in handcuffs. Horton was wearing a Chicago Bears jacket. Pitts's shirt was partially pulled over his head, and there was a bullet hole below his naval and a bullet hole in his chest. The police took the gun Horton dropped into evidence and noted the chamber was partially open with a bullet casing lodged inside.2

¶ 5 While officers placed Horton in handcuffs, Horton said to an officer, They're not involved. I'm the only suspect.” 4 RP at 237. Horton appeared to be referring to people standing outside nearby apartments. Horton also looked at the deceased, while laughing and stated, “That m* * * * *f* * *er is dead.” 4 RP at 238.

¶ 6 Horton was put in Officer Mark Holthaus's patrol car because it had an in-car video camera. Before Holthaus could advise Horton of his Miranda3

rights, Horton stated the guy in the parking lot “was part of the Hilltop Crips and that's what did it.” 5 RP at 355. Holthaus then read Horton his Miranda rights. Horton acknowledged that he understood his rights, but Holthaus did not question him. According to one officer, before Horton got in Holthaus's car, Horton told officers his leg and back were injured. The video of Horton in the back of the car was later admitted into evidence at Horton's trial and viewed by the jury.

¶ 7 Holthaus transported Horton to the police station where Investigator Sean Conlon took custody of him. At the station, Conlon read Horton his Miranda

rights a second time and then conducted a video recorded interview after Horton indicated he understood his rights and was willing to waive his rights and talk. Horton admitted to shooting Pitts, but at times throughout the interview he indicated it was in self-defense.

¶ 8 Officers identified the apartment tied to the events of the night and secured it, along with the tenant, Baron Johnson, who was standing nearby or inside the apartment. Officer Moody noted blood on the floor by the entryway. He also smelled a “fairly strong” odor of marijuana. 5 RP at 330. The blood indicated something had been dragged from inside the apartment to the outside. Two spent shell casings were located inside the apartment. Officers also recovered a black bag from the parking lot near where Pitts's body was found and where Horton had been taken into custody. The bag contained marijuana and ten blue tablets, which appeared to be Ecstasy.4

¶ 9 In events leading up to the shooting, Horton, Johnson, Gregory Borja, Anthony Ross, and Alonza Williams gathered at Johnson's apartment. After drinking and barbequing at the apartment, the group went to a night club. Johnson and Borja saw Pitts outside of the club. Johnson and Ross also saw Horton with a gun at some point that day.

¶ 10 The group drank and stayed at the club until about 1:30 A.M., when they returned to Johnson's apartment. Horton, Ross, Borja, and Williams rode in a car together. Pitts also showed up at the apartment shortly after the group arrived.

¶ 11 According to Johnson, Horton wanted to “slap box” with Pitts. 5 RP at 397. Borja said that everyone was having a good time, and Horton and Pitts were briefly slap boxing but were playing around. Borja thought that Pitts “got the better hand” of Horton once. 9 RP at 1085. Ross said that Horton and Pitts were in each other's faces and “smack talking.” 8 RP at 1006.

¶ 12 Horton and Pitts were intoxicated. Johnson described Horton's level of intoxication at the club earlier as “pretty up there,” and confirmed that meant drunk. 5 RP at 492. He had heard that Horton was on Ecstasy but did not see him take it.

¶ 13 According to Horton, he did not slap box with Pitts. Horton said Pitts came into the apartment and began calling him “cuz.” 11 RP at 1476, 1479. Pitts asked him about his Chicago Bears jacket, its black and orange colors, and whether he was a “Hoover.”5 11 RP at 1480. Horton stated that Pitts remarked on the colors of Horton's jacket in “his neighborhood” and asked him, “What you doing with the colors on over here, Cuz; are you from Hoover or something?” 11 RP at 1480. Pitts hit Horton, and Horton stated, “I've never been hit that hard in my life. It was one of those hits that I remember to this day. I ain't never been hit like that.” 11 RP at 1484. About a week before Pitts's death, Horton saw Pitts beat up another person to the point where the other guy's “face looked like a punkin.” 11 RP at 1496. Horton said, “I knew what this man was capable of and I was in fear for my life. I believe that man said he was going to kill me.” 11 RP at 1497.

¶ 14 Johnson went into his bedroom. At some point shortly thereafter, Borja got a bad feeling when Horton began talking about being a Black Gangster Disciple (BGD) from Chicago and thought it was time to go. Borja, Ross, and Williams left the apartment.

¶ 15 While Johnson was in his bedroom, Horton shot Pitts in the living room. Johnson did not see the first shot but said he ran into the living room to see smoke coming out of Pitts's abdomen and Horton shooting Pitts again. Johnson believed Horton said, “You can't do nothing to me now. You're dead,” before shooting Pitts again three more times. 5 RP at 431. Horton was not wearing shoes or a shirt.

¶ 16 According to Horton, Johnson told him to get Pitts out of the house. Horton told Johnson he would take care of it and began to drag Pitts outside. Horton came back to the apartment to get his shoes and jacket, and when he ran back to Pitts in the parking lot, the police had arrived.

II. THE FIRST TRIAL

¶ 17 On October 25, 2012, the State charged Horton by information with murder in the first degree with a firearm enhancement and unlawful possession of a firearm in the first degree.6 The State also charged a gang aggravator for both crimes.7

A. Hearing on Admissibility of Defendant's Statements

¶ 18 On March 18, 2014, prior to the start of trial, the trial court conducted a hearing pursuant to CrR 3.5

. The State presented testimony from Sergeant Brown and Officers James Syler, Dier, Holthaus, and Conlon. The trial court ruled that the statements Horton made during his arrest and while speaking with Conlon were admissible in the State's case in chief. The court entered written findings of fact.

¶ 19 In pertinent part, the trial court found that Horton was advised of his Miranda

rights, and that Horton understood his rights and waived them. The court also found that after being transported to the police station, the police put Horton in a recorded interview room. They provided notice to Horton about the recording, and again advised him of his Miranda rights. Horton stated he understood his rights and was willing to waive them and speak with Conlon. Horton signed the advisement of rights form. The court further found,

Shortly after being advised of his Miranda

rights, [Horton] made a comment, “I do have a lawyer.” The investigator asked what the defendant meant and he responded, “I don't have a lawyer.” The investigator asked “What did you have a lawyer for?” The defendant responded “why would I have a lawyer?”

The investigator asked if the defendant was referring to a previous case and the defendant responded, “naw, naw, I didn't have no lawyer for a previous case. But I do have lawyers ... but I'm just saying, this guy right here man [referencing the victim] ... fuck shit man.” The defendant then proceeded to talk about the events that transpired that night. At no other point did the defendant reference an attorney or otherwise suggest that he was invoking his right to an attorney or his right to remain silent.

Clerk's Papers (CP) at 205.

¶ 20 From its findings, the trial court concluded that Horton's statements on October 24, 2012, were admissible. The court also concluded that Horton's statements made to Conlon after arriving at the station followed two full advisements of his Miranda

rights and that Horton knowingly,...

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