The Fifth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution protects individuals from being put in jeopardy more than once for the same offense. The Washington State Constitution also protects Washington criminal defendants from double jeopardy. Many people think of the double jeopardy doctrine as preventing a person from being charged with the same offense again after being acquitted, but it also provides protections in other circumstances. Double jeopardy protections prevent a defendant from being charged with the same offense again after being acquitted or convicted and from being punished for the same offense more than once. In a recent unpublished case, a defendant challenged her convictions on three counts of conspiracy to commit murder, arguing that the multiple conspiracy charges violated double jeopardy.
According to the appeals Court’s opinion, the defendant’s husband left her in 2019 after more than 25 years of marriage. He moved to his mother’s property and started dating another woman. A few months later that woman moved in with him.
According to the opinion, the defendant told a friend she wanted to kill her husband, his mother, and his new girlfriend. She told the friend she had been planning to do so. She said she would like for someone to make the murders appear to be a home invasion, but expressed that she would do it herself if necessary.
The friend contacted the police. She agreed to assist them with the investigation. The friend recorded a conversation with the defendant in which she offered to help her get an untraceable gun. The defendant was arrested when she went to the friend’s house to get it.
The state charged the defendant with second degree unlawful possession of a firearm. The state also charged her with three counts of attempted murder in the first degree with firearm enhancements and, alternatively, with three counts of conspiracy to commit murder in the first degree with firearm enhancements.
About three hours of recordings of conversations between the defendant and the friend were played for the jury. Additionally, the jury heard a recording of the defendant’s police interview. The jury also heard from several witnesses, including the defendant, her husband, her husband’s mother, and her husband’s girlfriend. Some police officers also testified.
The jury convicted the defendant of the three conspiracy charges and of unlawful possession of a firearm. It acquitted her of the attempted murder charges. The defendant was sentenced to 398.25 months.
The defendant appealed, arguing that the multiple conspiracy convictions violated double jeopardy protections. The Washington Supreme Court has previously held that there is only one violation of a conspiracy statute when there is a single agreement to commit multiple crimes and each crime advances the scheme. Multiple conspiracy convictions in such circumstances violate double jeopardy protections.
In this case, the state agreed on appeal that the defendant’s actions supported only a single conspiracy conviction. The appeals court vacated two of the conspiracy convictions and remanded the case for resentencing.
If you are facing criminal charges, a skilled Washington criminal defense attorney can fight to protect your rights. Schedule a consultation with Blair & Kim, PLLC, by calling (206) 622-6562.