Washington defendants are entitled to a unanimous jury verdict. Washington criminal defense attorneys know, however, that this general rule can become complicated when there are multiple acts underlying the charges. If multiple acts could each form the basis of a charge, and the state presents evidence of each, either the state must elect which act is the basis of the charge, or the jury must be instructed on unanimity. If the multiple acts are all part of a continuing course of conduct, there is no requirement for an election or instruction. Additionally, multiple acts may be presented as alternative means of committing the crime. If there is sufficient evidence to support each means, express unanimity is not required. A Washington appeals court recently addressed these issues in a case in which a man was charged with residential burglary after allegedly violating a no-contact order and assaulting his wife.
The defendant was charged with three counts of felony violation of a court order, along with two assault charges, residential burglary, and third-degree malicious mischief. The charges stemmed from allegations that the defendant violated a no-contact order and assaulted his wife, sister, and mother. The defendant and his wife were separated, and she had obtained a no-contact order that prohibited him from coming within 1,000 feet of her or her home. The defendant had several misdemeanor convictions for violating the order.
The defendant’s wife testified that he came to her home twice in April 2015, but he left when she called the police. He came back in July 2015 and came in through the back door. She testified that he was intoxicated and called her names. She also testified that he kicked her, threw her on the couch, and struck her. The defendant’s parents and sister lived with his wife. The defendant started to leave when his sister told him she was calling the police. She grabbed his shirt to stop him, and he bit her hand until she kicked him. He pushed his mother to the ground and stepped on her chest as he left.