For a Washington criminal defendant to be convicted, both the U.S. and Washington constitutions require a unanimous jury to find the charged criminal act has been committed. A unanimous jury can be an issue where the state charges only a single count but presents evidence of multiple criminal acts. If the state does not choose a single act, then the jurors should be instructed that they must unanimously find the same criminal act was proved beyond a reasonable doubt in order to convict. A defendant recently challenged his conviction on the grounds he was denied his right to a unanimous jury verdict after the trial court failed to provide a unanimity instruction.
The state charged the defendant with one count of felony harassment of “[alleged male victim] and/or [alleged female victim].” The appeals court noted that harassing each of the alleged victims would be two distinct crimes that could have been charged as separate counts. The jury was not given a unanimous verdict instruction.
To prove felony harassment under RCW 9A.46.020(2)(b)(ii), the state had to prove the defendant threatened the alleged victim by “threatening to kill the person threatened or any other person,” and that the threatened person reasonably feared the threat would be carried out. The Washington Supreme Court has held that the “person threatened” is the person who is the target of the coercion or intimidation. A person may be threatened by a threat against another person. To prove felony harassment, the state must show that the threatened person had a reasonable fear the threat would be carried out.