State v. Woods, 65585-5.

CourtUnited States State Supreme Court of Washington
Citation23 P.3d 1046,143 Wash.2d 561
Docket NumberNo. 65585-5.,65585-5.
PartiesThe STATE of Washington, Respondent, v. Dwayne Anthony WOODS, Appellant.
Decision Date24 May 2001

Paul J. Wasson, II, Spokane, Lenell Rae Nussbaum, Seattle, for Appellant.

Dwayne Woods, Walla Walla, pro se.

Steven Tucker, Spokane County Prosecutor, Kevin Michael Korsmo, Deputy County Prosecutor, Spokane, for Respondent.


A Spokane County jury found Dwayne Anthony Woods guilty of two counts of aggravated first degree murder, one count of attempted first degree murder, and one count of attempting to elude a police vehicle. Following a determination by the jury that there were insufficient circumstances to merit leniency, the trial court imposed the death penalty. Woods appeals to this court his convictions for aggravated first degree murder and attempted first degree murder, claiming that numerous errors occurred during the trial which justify a reversal of those convictions and the sentence for aggravated first degree murder.1 We affirm the convictions and the death sentence.


On Friday, April 26, 1996, Telisha Shaver was "house-sitting" at her aunt's trailer home in the Spokane Valley. Verbatim Report of Proceedings (VRP) at 3054. Telisha, who planned to stay the night at her boyfriend's home, agreed to let her sister, Venus, and Venus's friend, Jade Moore, spend the night at the trailer. Because Venus and Jade went out that evening, they did not arrive at the trailer home until approximately 1:45 a.m. on Saturday, April 27. Shortly thereafter, Venus and Jade's friend, Anica Nelson, came over to the trailer. The three women then proceeded to engage in conversation and consume alcohol. Eventually, Venus and Jade expressed a desire to contact Dwayne Woods. Venus, who had been dating Woods, indicated that she simply wanted to talk to him. Jade, on the other hand, expressed the hope that Woods could supply her with marijuana. Eventually, Venus called Woods's pager number. Woods responded to the page at 3:45 a.m. Venus then agreed to pick him up in her automobile and bring him back to the trailer. At about this same time, Anica Nelson departed the trailer home and Jade went to sleep in one of the bedrooms of the trailer.

Venus returned to the trailer with Woods at 4:20 a.m. Although Venus and Woods proceeded to engage in conversation, Venus said that she felt "uneased about him. I wasn't comfortable." VRP at 3426. According to testimony Venus gave at trial, Woods "poured himself vodka" and expressed unhappiness about the fact that Jade was not awake. VRP at 3427. At the behest of Woods, Venus tried to awaken Jade, but she did not respond. Woods, according to Venus, became irate and eventually shoved Venus onto the couch and attempted to unbutton her pants. Venus said that she escaped from Woods's grasp but that he managed to grab her again and "slammed" her head and neck against a door. VRP at 3432. From that point on, Venus has no memory of events that morning except for reoccurring "flashing" of memory in which she recalls struggling with Woods. VRP at 3434.

After Woods completed his attack on Venus, he moved on to Jade. At about 7:30 a.m., Woods climbed into bed with Jade and forced her, at knifepoint, to get up. He then forcibly took her to witness the severely beaten Venus who was lying unconscious on the floor in one of the bedrooms. Woods proceeded to threaten Jade that if she did not comply with his demands, she would "end up looking just like your friend Venus.'" VRP at 2941. He then forced Jade to help him loot the trailer and to give him her automatic transaction machine (ATM) card together with her personal identification number. He then raped Jade orally and vaginally.

While Woods was attacking Jade, Telisha came over to the trailer to retrieve some of her belongings. As she entered the trailer, Woods seized and bound her and forced her to stand against a wall in the bedroom. Jade, who was laying on the floor at this point, and "acting like she was dead," said that she "heard a baseball bat hit" Telisha's head. VRP at 3303. Jade was then hit in the head with the bat, knocked unconscious, and was unable to observe what happened beyond that point.

When Telisha failed to return home later that morning, her mother, Sherry Shaver, became concerned and decided to go to the trailer. She arrived there at approximately 10:25 a.m. and found the door locked. While peering in through a window in the trailer, she saw a man, whom she later identified as Woods, alighting from the other side of the trailer. Sherry gave chase, but the man she had observed eluded her. She then returned to the trailer and pounded on the locked door. Finally, Jade answered the door. According to Sherry Shaver, Jade "looked out of it and she was stark naked." VRP at 3063. Sherry soon realized that the three women in the trailer had been beaten. Sherry called 911.

Police, paramedic, and fire department personnel were immediately dispatched to the scene of the crime, and the victims were rushed to the hospital. While en route to the hospital, Jade told a paramedic about the events surrounding her assault. Once Jade arrived at the hospital she also informed her father, the emergency room physician, and a nurse about what had transpired that morning. Despite the efforts of hospital personnel, Telisha expired without ever regaining consciousness. Jade initially responded favorably to medical treatment, however, her condition eventually worsened and she died the following day. Venus survived, despite being stabbed numerous times and severely beaten.

Soon after exiting the trailer, Woods was seen at two business establishments within close proximity to the crime scene. At one of the businesses, Woods obtained a ride from a patron into downtown Spokane. Shortly thereafter, and within close proximity to where Woods had been dropped off in downtown Spokane, a series of cash machine withdrawals occurred with the use of Jade's ATM card.

At approximately 12:30 p.m. that same day, Woods happened upon his brother-in-law, Louis Thompson, at a grocery store in the downtown area. Woods obtained a ride from Thompson to the home of Johnny Knight. Knight and his friend, Mary Knapp, recall that when Woods came to their home he offered at that time to sell Knight "some rings" and to buy one of Knight's automobiles. VRP at 5264. Woods passed the bulk of the day in their company, but later that evening went to the apartment of his former girl friend, Elizabeth Gerber, where he spent the night.

The following morning, April 28, 1996, Gerber asked Woods to leave her apartment. Woods became agitated and told Gerber that he was "a wanted man" and that she was "putting him on the streets." VRP at 5087. Later that day, Johnny Knight heard a television broadcast that indicated the authorities were searching for Woods. This prompted Knight to telephone the authorities and agree to lead them to Woods. With Knight's cooperation, Spokane County Sheriff deputies followed Knight as he went to pick up Woods and one of Woods's friends, Jennifer Espinoza. After Knight did so, the deputies stopped Knight's vehicle. When Knight exited the vehicle, Woods maneuvered his way into the driver's seat and sped away in the vehicle. The deputies gave chase, eventually bringing Woods to a halt. Woods was then taken into custody and was interrogated by Spokane County Sheriff detectives.

Woods told the interviewing detectives that he ran from the police because he said he had a number of "outstanding traffic violations" and "some traffic warrants." VRP at 5371. Testimony at trial indicated that at the time Woods was arrested, there were no outstanding traffic warrants for his arrest. Woods also told the detectives that he knew Venus Shaver but that he had not been in contact with her for about a week. Woods denied knowing a woman by the name of Jade. He also said that he had not been in the "Spokane valley" for about a month and said that he had never visited a trailer home in the Spokane Valley. VRP at 5385. Finally, Woods told the detectives that there was no "logical explanation" for his fingerprints being found in a trailer home in the Spokane Valley. VRP at 5386.


Approximately one month after the above described events took place, the State charged Woods in Spokane County Superior Court with two counts of aggravated first degree murder, one count of attempted first degree murder, and, in the alternative, one count of first degree assault. At his arraignment on May 30, 1996, Woods pleaded not guilty to the charges and waived his right to be tried within 60 days of his arraignment, but not later than November 12, 1996. A trial date was set for October 21, 1996. On June 27, Woods's attorneys2 moved to extend the time in which the prosecutor had to file notice of intent to seek the death penalty pursuant to RCW 10.95.040. Clerk's Papers (CP) at 32. They indicated that they did so in order to obtain additional time to prepare mitigating information in an effort to convince the prosecutor that the death penalty was inappropriate. The trial court extended the death penalty filing deadline until August 16, 1996.

On August 16, the State filed a notice that it intended to seek the death penalty. On August 23, Woods's attorneys moved for a continuance of the trial date. Their motion was based on the fact that the results of DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid) tests performed by the State had not been received and that additional time was needed to produce mitigation evidence. Woods's counsel claimed that they would be unable to ensure that the defendant could receive a fair trial if required to go to trial on the scheduled date of October 21. Woods indicated to the trial court that he disagreed with his counsel, stating that he would "be prepared to proceed with—with this matter here without counsel come October 21st." VRP at 13. The...

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