In Washington, a unanimous verdict is required to convict a defendant of assault. Thus, if less than all of the jurors agree as to whether a defendant committed the crime of assault, the defendant cannot be convicted. Although unanimity is required for a conviction, in cases where the defendant is charged with an alternative means crime, a unanimous finding as to the manner in which the crime was committed is not required to uphold a conviction. This was elucidated in a recent Washington appellate court case, in which the court affirmed the defendant’s conviction for assault in the second degree despite no unanimous finding as to how the assault was committed. If you live in Washington and are facing assault charges it is critical to confer with a trusted Washington assault defense attorney to discuss the facts of your case and what evidence the State may use against you.
Facts Regarding the Alleged Assault
Reportedly, the police met with the defendant’s wife who had bruises, black eyes, a disfigured nose, and a cauliflower ear. The defendant was subsequently charged with two counts of assault in the second degree, which is an alternative means crime, to which he pleaded not guilty. During the trial, numerous witnesses testified regarding the defendant’s alleged assault of his wife on several occasions, including the wife, the child of the defendant and his wife, and the wife’s treating physicians. The defendant was ultimately convicted of both charges. The defendant appealed, arguing that he was deprived of his right to a unanimous jury verdict because there was insufficient evidence of each of the charged means of committing assault in the second degree.
Assault in the second degree is an alternative means crime, which means that although the statute defining the crime sets forth a single criminal offense, it delineates seven subsections as to how the offense may be committed. In the subject case, the defendant was charged with assault in the second degree committed by three alternative means. The defendant argued that the jury was required to agree unanimously as to the means used to commit the crime to support a conviction.