State v. Manussier

Decision Date08 August 1996
Docket NumberNo. 61906-9,61906-9
Citation129 Wn.2d 652,921 P.2d 473
PartiesThe STATE of Washington, Respondent, v. George W. MANUSSIER, Appellant.
CourtWashington Supreme Court

Raymond H. Thoenig, Dept. of Assigned Counsel, Tacoma, Kyron Huigens, Croton-On-Hud, NY, for appellant.

John Ladenburg, Pierce County Prosecutor, Barbara Corey-Boulet, Michael R. Johnson, Deputies, Tacoma, for respondent.

SMITH, Justice.

Appellant George W. Manussier appeals his mandatory sentence of life imprisonment without possibility of parole under the "three strikes law" of RCW 9.94A.120(4) following his plea of "guilty" in the Pierce County Superior Court to second degree robbery. He challenges on various state and federal constitutional grounds the validity of the "three strikes law," enacted by the Legislature in 1994 after approval of Initiative 593 by the people of Washington in 1993. We affirm.


The questions presented in this case are whether Initiative 593 (1) was adopted in violation of Article II, Section 37 of the Washington Constitution; (2) violates Article I, Section 10 of the United States Constitution and Article I, Section 23 of the Washington Constitution as a bill of attainder; (3) violates the separation of powers doctrine; (4) violates Article IV, Section 4 of the United States Constitution, which guarantees a republican form of government; (5) violates either the federal Equal Protection Clause, or its counterpart, the privileges and immunities clause of Article I, Section 12 of the Washington Constitution; (6) violates the Eighth Amendment of the United States Constitution and the cruel punishment clause of Article I, Section 14 of the Washington Constitution; and (7) violates substantive or procedural due process.


Initiative 593, commonly referred to as the "three strikes law," was adopted by the voters of this state in November 1993 under the ballot title, "Shall criminals who are convicted of 'most serious offenses' on three occasions be sentenced to life in prison without parole?" 1 The initiative, which took effect on December 2, 1993, 2 amended RCW 9.94A.120 by adding a new subsection which requires trial courts to sentence "persistent offenders" to life imprisonment without possibility of parole. 3 A "persistent offender" is defined as one convicted of any felony considered a "most serious offense" under RCW 9.94A.030(21) and who has, in addition, been twice convicted of an offense falling under that category. 4

A "most serious offense" includes the following: (a) any Class A felony; (b) any Class B felony with a finding of "sexual motivation" as defined by statute; (c) any felony with a deadly weapon finding; and (d) seventeen other named offenses. 5 The statute's mandatory life sentence applies to any persistent offender "notwithstanding the maximum sentence under any other law." 6

On April 12, 1994, Appellant Manussier entered a bank in Fife, Washington, handed a teller a note demanding money, and claimed he was armed with a gun and would shoot. After the teller complied with his demand, appellant fled on foot to a nearby restaurant, where he was arrested with the money taken from the bank in his possession.

On April 15, 1994, the Pierce County Prosecuting Attorney charged appellant by information with first degree robbery, a class A felony, in the Pierce County Superior Court. 7 The State also filed a "Most Serious Offense Notice," informing appellant he would be classified as a persistent offender and sentenced to life imprisonment without parole under RCW 9.94A.120(4) if he had twice previously been convicted of most serious offenses. 8 Because he had twice been convicted of first degree robbery in 1985 and 1989, 9 appellant was subject to the "three strikes law" upon his conviction on the 1994 charge.

In the Superior Court, appellant asked the court to declare Initiative 593 unconstitutional on several state and federal constitutional grounds. 10 He also argued, in the alternative, that Initiative 593 reinstated the former habitual criminal statute, 11 thus entitling him to certain "procedural protections developed under Washington case law." 12 More specifically, appellant claimed he had a right to a jury trial on the issue of prior convictions, and that the State was required to prove the fact of his convictions beyond a reasonable doubt. 13 The Pierce County Superior Court rejected both arguments and denied appellant's motion by order dated June 24, 1994. 14 The court, the Honorable Arthur W. Verharen, noted in the order that it would not "impose any additional due process requirements upon the State beyond those which are provided for in the Sentencing Reform Act, RCW 9.94A.010 et seq." 15

On June 27, 1994, appellant pleaded "guilty" to second degree robbery, 16 which qualifies as a "most serious offense" under Initiative 593. 17 Although he did not acknowledge his two prior robbery convictions at the time of his plea, on that date he signed a statement on plea of guilty acknowledging that the penalty for this third conviction was a mandatory sentence of life imprisonment without parole. 18 Second degree robbery would otherwise carry a standard range sentence of 15 to 20 months' imprisonment. 19

At appellant's sentencing hearing, the State offered as proof of his criminal history (1) a certified copy of the verdict form in the 1985 robbery conviction, a certified copy of the judgment and sentence from that case, and the Court of Appeals' affirmance of the conviction; and (2) a copy of the Statement of Defendant on Plea of Guilty in the 1989 robbery case, the warrant of commitment in that case, and a certified copy of the 1989 judgment and sentence. 20 The State also offered testimony of Washington State Community Corrections Officer Thomas Patdonea, who stated he knew appellant from the Department of Corrections and that appellant's department file confirmed two prior first degree robbery convictions. 21 Further testimony was offered by David Cotton, forensic investigation supervisor, Pierce County Sheriff's Department. Mr. Cotton testified he compared a set of fingerprints taken from appellant during booking for the 1994 robbery conviction with prints he took from appellant in court that day, prints on the 1985 judgment, and prints on the 1989 warrant of commitment. 22 He concluded that all prints came from the same person. 23

Finding that appellant had been convicted of first degree robbery in 1985 and 1989, the trial court concluded he was a "persistent offender" as defined in RCW 9.94A.030(25). 24 The court, the Honorable Bruce W. Cohoe, then under RCW 9.94A.120(4) sentenced him to life imprisonment without possibility of parole on June 30, 1994, 25 noting that the court did not have discretion to do otherwise. 26 Appellant then timely filed this appeal.


Article II, Section 37 of the Washington Constitution declares that "No act shall ever be revised or amended by mere reference to its title, but the act revised or the section amended shall be set forth at full length." Appellant claims Initiative 593 violates this constitutional provision because it amends RCW 9A.20.021, the section of the criminal code providing maximum penalties for all offenses, without referring to the statute. 27

While we have not previously ruled on this point, we now conclude that article II, Section 37 applies to initiative measures, as well as to acts adopted by the Legislature. In Washington Federation of State Employees v. State, we stated that:

[A]mendment VII [to the state constitution], which established the initiative right, was an amendment to Const. art. II, which concerns legislative authority, and therefore the provisions of article II, including section 19, are applicable to both the legislative and initiative processes. 28

Although in that case we were principally concerned with application of article II, Section 19 to the initiative process, our conclusion nevertheless logically extends to section 37 as well. Because we conclude that article II, Section 37 applies to Initiative 593, the question now becomes whether the initiative complies with that provision.

This court has set out a two-part conjunctive test for determining whether a law violates section 37: (1) "Is the new enactment such a complete act that the scope of the rights or duties created or affected by the legislative action can be determined without referring to any other statute or enactment?"; and (2) "Would a straightforward determination of the scope of rights or duties under the existing statutes be rendered erroneous by the new enactment?" 29 Initiative 593 satisfies this test, at least for application of Section 37 of article II.

Applying part one of the test, we conclude Initiative 593 is a complete act capable of being understood without reference to statutes not set forth in its provisions. The initiative addresses the limited subject of sentencing for "persistent offenders." Every statute amended was set out in full in the initiative. 30 By defining "persistent offender" in RCW 9.94A.030(25) and mandating in RCW 9.94A.120(4) a life sentence without parole for such offenders "notwithstanding the maximum sentence under any other law," the initiative completely addresses the scope of the rights affected. There is no need to go beyond the wording of the initiative to determine the penalty for engaging in certain delineated recidivist conduct because the law states its applicability is independent of maximum sentences imposed by any other law. 31

Part two of the test is not so easily satisfied. The initiative does affect the law on maximum sentences under RCW 9A.20.021. Under that statute, the maximum penalty for a class A felony is life imprisonment, while the maximum penalty for a class B felony is "a term of ten years." 32 By...

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