Criminal Law, Pages 553–557

Waddington v. Sarausad

Supreme Court of the United States, 2009

Facts:

Defendant drove two members of his gang, the 23d Street Diablos, to a high school to "show that the Diablos were not afraid" of a rival gang after an earlier fight was interrupted by someone saying the police were nearby. When they got in front of the school, defendant slowed down, a passenger fired into the crowd of 23 people, and defendant sped off. One person was killed and another injured by the shooting.

Procedural History:

Defendant was convicted of second-degree murder, attempted murder, and assault under accomplice liability, and he was sentenced to over 27 years of imprisonment.

The prosecution had originally told the jury that defendant could be convicted under the natural and probable consequences doctrine of "in for a dime, in for a dollar" and that assaultive intent on defendant's part would be sufficient to find him an accomplice to murder. However, a case was decided during the trial rejecting the natural and probable consequences doctrine, and the jury instructions therefor did not mention the theory. They only quoted the statute in saying that one "is an accomplice in the commission of a crime" if he has "knowledge that it will promote or facilitate the commission of the crime."

Defendant's Argument:

Defendant thought the passenger was just going to get out of the car and beat someone up. He did not think he was going to shoot anyone.

Issue:

Did defendant have the knowledge required to be an accomplice to the murder?

Rule:

To be an accomplice in Washington, one must have knowledge of the specific crime that occurs.

Note:

This is a rejection of the natural and probable consequences doctrine.

Reasoning:

The jury instruction parroted the statutory language. It clearly says that one must have had knowledge of a crime to be convicted of that crime. There's no evidence that the jury was confused into thinking that knowledge of any crime would suffice to convict defendant of murder. The jury just believed that defendant knew of more than just a fistfight.

Holding:

Yes, the jury found that defendant had the knowledge making an accomplice to murder.

Dissenting Opinion:

Souter: The earlier statements by the prosecutor plainly told the jury the wrong doctrine on accomplice liability. While at the time it was a fair assumption that such statements were good law, it obviously would have confused the jury, especially when coupled with an ambiguous jury instruction that, unlike the statute says that one can be convicted of "a crime" if he had knowledge of "the crime."


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