Common sense takes leave
In addition to the important free speech horn-honking case going before the state Supreme Court, we’ve spawned another money-waster making its way through the litigious waters.
In what has been described as a “legal quirk,” a Bothell man had his 2007 misdemeanor stalking conviction overturned in June by the state Court of Appeals, which declared his trial unconstitutional because the jury that convicted him was made up of residents from two counties.
The state Constitution, written in the late 19th century, gives defendants the right to be tried by a “jury of the county in which the offense is charged to have been committed.”
Bothell is one of six cities in the state that straddles two counties. Most of the city is in King County, with about six-square miles in Snohomish County.
James K. Barnhart was charged with stalking in Snohomish County and convicted in Bothell Municipal Court by a jury made up of Bothell citizens — two from the King County side and four from the Snohomish County side.
Oh, what a miscarriage; Lady Justice must be weeping.
At jury selection, Barnhart’s thinking-ahead Everett attorney, Mark Stephens, argued that all the jurors should be from Snohomish County. The request was denied and the trial went ahead.
Stephens appealed the conviction to King County Superior Court.
The court correctly determined the trial had been legal, citing a statute that says jurors may be selected “from the population of the area served by the court.”
This is exactly what happened. The jurors, from King and Snohomish counties, are the population served by the court. The trial was legal; justice served, with his constitutional rights intact.
But what good is a good decision if it can’t be appealed?
Stephens went to the state appeals court, which, in its strict wisdom, found the trial to be unconstitutional.
So now Barnhart gets a new trial and Bothell must appeal the decision to the state Supreme Court. And the city had to quickly create separate King County and Snohomish County jury pools, which will be difficult to maintain over time.
Stephens argues: If the Bothell had won, it could’ve pulled any juror from anywhere in the state and called it constitutional.
But Bothell didn’t randomly pull jurors from around the state; nor has it ever done so. It called jurors from the city that it serves, which straddles two counties. It called a jury of Barnhart’s peers.
Our new comment system is not supported in IE 7. Please upgrade your browser here.