State v. Marohl, No. 83570–5.

CourtUnited States State Supreme Court of Washington
Writing for the CourtSANDERS, J.
Citation170 Wash.2d 691,246 P.3d 177
PartiesSTATE of Washington, Respondent,v.James Michael MAROHL, Petitioner.
Decision Date30 December 2010
Docket NumberNo. 83570–5.

170 Wash.2d 691
246 P.3d 177

STATE of Washington, Respondent,
v.
James Michael MAROHL, Petitioner.

No. 83570–5.

Supreme Court of Washington, En Banc.

Argued Sept. 21, 2010.Decided Dec. 30, 2010.


[246 P.3d 178]

Thomas Edward Doyle, Attorney at Law, Hansville, WA, for Petitioner.Edward P. Lombardo, Monty Dale Cobb, Mason County Prosecuting Attorney's Office, Shelton, WA, for Respondent.SANDERS, J.

[170 Wash.2d 694] ¶ 1 The State charged James Michael Marohl with second degree assault or, in the alternative, third degree assault after he placed Joseph Rex Peterson in [170 Wash.2d 695] a choke hold and caused Peterson to fall to the floor. Peterson's impact with the ground scraped and bruised his face, and his prosthetic arm broke off above the elbow. A jury found Marohl not guilty of second degree assault but guilty of third degree assault under RCW 9A.36.031(1)(d). Marohl appealed his conviction, claiming insufficient evidence existed to show he committed third degree assault because the floor was not an “instrument or thing likely to produce bodily harm” under RCW 9A.36.031(1)(d). The Court of Appeals affirmed the conviction. We granted review to decide whether a floor is an instrument or thing under the third degree assault statute. We reverse the Court of Appeals.

FACTS

¶ 2 On June 27, 2007, Peterson was celebrating at a bar in the Little Creek Casino in Mason County. Over the course of the evening, he became drunk and the bartender cut him off from further service of alcohol.

¶ 3 Peterson walked up to the bar to get a glass of water. A friend tapped him on the back, and Peterson followed her, knocking over a chair as he moved to the opposite end of the bar. Sean McFadden, a friend of Marohl's, stopped Peterson to complain that the chair had almost hit McFadden's wife and to ask Peterson to be more careful. Peterson put his arm around McFadden and started to apologize. McFadden attempted to remove Peterson's arm several times, but Peterson kept his arm around McFadden.

¶ 4 Observing Peterson and McFadden, Marohl, a mixed martial arts fighter, got up from his table and stepped between the two men. Marohl took Peterson's arm and pushed it back. Marohl then placed his arm around Peterson's neck in a choke hold and started to walk Peterson toward the door.

¶ 5 The State introduced surveillance tape footage of the incident at trial, but witness testimony conflicted. Jesse Kollman, a friend of Peterson's, testified Peterson waved his [170 Wash.2d 696] arms in the air in a “defensive move” to get Marohl “off his back.” 1 Report of Proceedings (RP) (Jan. 30, 2008) at 78. Kollman testified Peterson lost consciousness, and Marohl “drove” or “rode” Peterson into the ground. Id. at 78–79. Another witness testified Marohl placed an arm around Peterson's neck to restrain him and walk him out of the bar. 3 RP (Jan. 31, 2008) at 265. Defense witnesses testified Peterson tripped and Marohl tried to keep him upright. Id. at 203, 231. In light of Marohl's mixed martial arts training, both sides presented expert testimony evaluating the type of choke hold he placed on Peterson and whether Marohl choked Peterson to restrain him or to render him unconscious.

¶ 6 Both men fell to the floor. Either the choke hold or the impact with the ground rendered Peterson unconscious for a couple of minutes. The impact with the casino floor caused Peterson to suffer bruises and scrapes on his face, and his prosthetic arm broke off above the elbow joint. Marohl got to his feet and walked away but then returned to try to help Peterson off the ground.

¶ 7 The State charged Marohl with second degree assault or, in the alternative, third degree assault. The jury instructions directed that a person commits third degree assault “when he or she, with criminal negligence, causes bodily harm to another person by means of a weapon or other instrument or thing likely to produce bodily harm.” 4 RP (Feb. 1, 2008) at 437. The jury was instructed that the prosecutor must prove beyond a reasonable doubt the elements of third degree

[246 P.3d 179]

assault, including “[t]hat the physical injury was caused by a weapon or other instrument or thing likely to produce bodily harm.” Id. at 438. The instructions did not define “instrument or thing likely to produce bodily harm,” but the prosecutor described the element in his closing argument:

The instrument or thing here, obviously, is a combination of the arm lock, the choke lock, and taking him into the ground and slamming him into the floor. There's no requirement that—it's a broad thing. Instrument or thing. That's all in your—within [170 Wash.2d 697] your province to decide those are the instruments or things. There isn't a limited number of things in the law by which an assault third can be committed and no other. It's a very broad definition. Any instrument or thing. So, whether it was kick him with a boot, which isn't here, or any other matter you can think of, you simply take the facts that you have and say, what instrument or thing did he use with criminal negligence to inflict this harm.

Id. at 449. The defense attorney did not object.

¶ 8 The jury found Marohl not guilty of second degree assault and guilty of third degree assault. Marohl appealed his conviction, claiming insufficient evidence existed to show he injured Peterson by means of an instrument or thing under RCW 9A.36.031(1)(d). The Court of Appeals affirmed the conviction. State v. Marohl, 151 Wash.App. 469, 475, 213 P.3d 49 (2009). We granted Marohl's petition for review. State v. Marohl, 167 Wash.2d 1020, 224 P.3d 774 (2010).

¶ 9 The issue is whether Marohl employed an instrument or thing under RCW 9A.36.031(1)(d) when he caused bodily harm by forcing Peterson to the ground. Holding that the floor was an instrument or thing for purposes of the third degree assault statute, the Court of Appeals affirmed Marohl's conviction. We reverse and, based on the facts in this case, conclude the floor was not an “instrument or thing likely to produce bodily harm” under RCW 9A.36.031(1)(d).

ANALYSIS

¶ 10 Whether a floor can be an “instrument or thing likely to produce bodily harm” for purposes of third degree assault is a matter of first impression. The meaning of a statute is a question of law we review de novo. Delyria v. State, 165 Wash.2d 559, 562, 199 P.3d 980 (2009).

[170 Wash.2d 698] Under the plain meaning of RCW 9A.36.031(1)(d), the floor was not aninstrument or thing likely to produce bodily harm.

¶ 11 The principles of due process require the State to prove beyond a reasonable doubt every essential element of a crime. In re Winship, 397 U.S. 358, 364, 90 S.Ct. 1068, 25 L.Ed.2d 368 (1970). To determine whether there is sufficient evidence to support 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).

¶ 12 Whether the casino floor was an instrument or thing under RCW 9A.36.031(1)(d) depends on statutory construction. Our “fundamental objective in construing a statute is to ascertain and carry out the legislature's intent.” Arborwood Idaho, LLC v. City of Kennewick, 151 Wash.2d 359, 367, 89 P.3d 217 (2004). We first look to the plain meaning of a statute, and if the plain language is subject to only one interpretation, our inquiry ends. State v. Armendariz, 160 Wash.2d 106, 110, 156 P.3d 201 (2007...

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27 practice notes
  • In re Coats, No. 83544–6.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Washington
    • November 17, 2011
    ...under familiar guidelines.1 The goal when construing a statute is to discover and carry out the legislature's intent. State v. Marohl, 170 Wash.2d 691, 698, 246 P.3d 177 (2010). If the statute's language is plain on its face, we give effect to that language as a statement of the legislative......
  • State v. A.M., No. 66967–2–I.
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Washington
    • September 6, 2011
    ...We agree. ¶ 10 Due process requires the State to prove beyond a reasonable doubt every essential element of a crime. State v. Marohl, 170 Wash.2d 691, 698, 246 P.3d 177 (2010). Where there are findings of fact, as in a bench trial, unchallenged findings of fact are verities on appeal. State......
  • State v. Sundberg, 40261-1-II
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Washington
    • October 18, 2011
    ...Both Sundberg and the State rely on this court's decision in State v. Marohl, 151 Wn.App. 469, 213 P.3d 49 (2009), rev'd, 170 Wn.2d 691, 246 P.3d 177 (2010), in which this court held that a casino floor was an instrument or thing likely to produce harm when the defendant slammed the victim ......
  • State v. Sundberg, No. 40261-1-II
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Washington
    • October 18, 2011
    ...Both Sundberg and the State rely on this court's decision in State v. Marohl, 151 Wn. App. 469, 213 P.3d 49 (2009), rev'd, 170 Wn.2d 691, 246 P.3d 177 (2010), in which this court held that a casino floor was an instrument or thing likely to produce harm when the defendant slammed the victim......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
27 cases
  • In re Coats, No. 83544–6.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Washington
    • November 17, 2011
    ...under familiar guidelines.1 The goal when construing a statute is to discover and carry out the legislature's intent. State v. Marohl, 170 Wash.2d 691, 698, 246 P.3d 177 (2010). If the statute's language is plain on its face, we give effect to that language as a statement of the legislative......
  • State v. A.M., No. 66967–2–I.
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Washington
    • September 6, 2011
    ...We agree. ¶ 10 Due process requires the State to prove beyond a reasonable doubt every essential element of a crime. State v. Marohl, 170 Wash.2d 691, 698, 246 P.3d 177 (2010). Where there are findings of fact, as in a bench trial, unchallenged findings of fact are verities on appeal. State......
  • State v. Sundberg, 40261-1-II
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Washington
    • October 18, 2011
    ...Both Sundberg and the State rely on this court's decision in State v. Marohl, 151 Wn.App. 469, 213 P.3d 49 (2009), rev'd, 170 Wn.2d 691, 246 P.3d 177 (2010), in which this court held that a casino floor was an instrument or thing likely to produce harm when the defendant slammed the victim ......
  • State v. Sundberg, No. 40261-1-II
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Washington
    • October 18, 2011
    ...Both Sundberg and the State rely on this court's decision in State v. Marohl, 151 Wn. App. 469, 213 P.3d 49 (2009), rev'd, 170 Wn.2d 691, 246 P.3d 177 (2010), in which this court held that a casino floor was an instrument or thing likely to produce harm when the defendant slammed the victim......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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