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Legal news and analysis from the largest criminal defense firm in Southwest Washington, Jeffrey D. Barrar, P.S.

Barrar wins not-guilty verdicts in DV trial

Attorney Jeff Barrar won a domestic violence trial this week in Clark County District Court for a father accused of assaulting his adult daughter and punching a hole in a wall.

The client was charged with fourth-degree assault and third-degree malicious mischief, both gross misdemeanors punishable by up to one year in jail.

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Anderson, Hawke get "third strike" dismissed

Attorneys Neil Anderson and Whitney Hawke succeeded this week in getting a client’s “third strike” assault case dismissed after spending months gathering evidence showing the alleged victim was not credible.

A Clark County deputy prosecuting attorney, finally conceding he had an unwinnable case, filed a motion to dismiss the charge of assault in the second degree. A Superior Court judge signed the dismissal order on May 10, and the client was released from the Clark County Jail.

He’d been in jail since his September arrest. Trial had been set for later this month.

Under the state’s 1993 persistent offender law, better known as the “three strikes” law, the client faced a mandatory sentence of life in prison with no possibility of parole had he been convicted. The law, which was approved by voters, locks away prisoners for life after a third conviction for a violent felony.

The client, 51, has two strikes for second-degree assault convictions in 1990 and 2002.

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Rape conviction overturned due to prosecutorial misconduct

A Vancouver client’s 2017 convictions for raping his wife have been thrown out by the Court of Appeals.

In a 3-0 ruling, appellate judges cited prosecutorial misconduct as grounds for reversal, including a Clark County deputy prosecutor’s comments about anal sex she made during closing argument.

The client, who was represented at trial by attorney Neil Anderson, was convicted of second-degree rape and third-degree rape and sentenced to 12 years in prison. After his wife called 911 to report she’d been raped, responding police officers asked the client whether the sex with his wife had been consensual. The client said his wife didn’t say yes or no and “just laid there” but said it was normal for his wife to not actively participate.

At trial in Clark County Superior Court, the deputy prosecutor asked the client a lot of questions about whether it was hygienic to have anal sex before vaginal sex without cleaning himself in between.

The client said he was unaware it was not hygienic and that he and his wife had done it before.

During closing argument, the deputy prosecutor told the jury the defendant’s sexual practices were “not normal” and “gross.”

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Kauffman named Trial Attorney of the Year

Katie Kauffman was honored as Trial Attorney of the Year at the Clark County Bar Association’s Barrister Ball on March 2 at Warehouse ’23.

Jeff Barrar presented the award, which was voted on by members of the bar association.

Barrar said Kauffman, who started working for his firm in 2012, had a very busy and successful year in court in 2018. She won acquittals for a client charged with second-degree assault with a deadly weapon, and another client charged with indecent liberties.

For a client facing life in prison under the state’s “third strike” law, she did so well at trial that the prosecutor failed to win a conviction; the trial ended with a hung jury. Kauffman subsequently negotiated a deal for her client, who received a substantially lighter prison sentence.

Recently, Barrar said, Kauffman co-chaired a murder trial with him, and the client was convicted only of a lesser charge of manslaughter.

In addition to those serious felony cases, Kauffman won acquittals for four clients charged with misdemeanor domestic violence, Barrar said.

“If I were to list two of her qualities most responsible for her success, they would be confidence and compassion. Her confidence comes from the years of preparation and hard work, the compassion we can all thank her parents for,” Barrar said.

“I’d like to close with one final thought,” he said. “The next time someone comes to you and says they have a son or daughter or another loved one charged with a crime and they were appointed a public defender, what should they do? You tell them that in 2018 a public defender was recognized by her peers as being the best trial attorney in the county.”

Prosecutor fails to "strike out" Kauffman's client

Katie Kauffman’s client, who was facing a life sentence under the state’s “three strikes” law, was sentenced this week to eight years in prison.

With time off for good behavior, he will be out in about five years.

It was a big win for Kauffman’s 32-year-old client. His criminal history includes two convictions for robbery. Those are strike offenses under Washington’s Persistent Offender Accountability Act, which was approved by voters in 1993. The law mandates that convictions on a third strike carry life sentences without the possibility of parole.

Last year, the Clark County Prosecutor’s Office charged Kauffman’s client with burglary in the first degree (domestic violence), felony violation of a no-contact order, theft of a motor vehicle (domestic violence) and residential burglary (domestic violence.)

First-degree burglary counts as a strike.

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Barrar, Kauffman convince jurors fatal shooting was accidental

Attorneys Jeff Barrar and Katie Kauffman successfully defended a client charged with first-degree murder in the shooting death of his wife. On Dec. 6, a jury agreed with the defense that the shooting was not intentional and convicted the client on a lesser charge of first-degree manslaughter.

Jurors also acquitted the client, Todd Marjama Jr., on a charge of first-degree assault. That felony charge was because the client’s young daughter had been with her mother when her mother was shot behind a closed bathroom door.

There was no evidence the client knew his daughter had been in the bathroom.

Trial began Nov. 26 in Clark County Superior Court. Jurors heard from 28 witnesses over seven days of testimony.  The 12 jurors deliberated approximately five hours on Dec. 6 before reaching a verdict.

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Kauffman wins felony assault trial

A jury unanimously agreed this week with Katie Kauffman that her client was acting in self-defense when he stabbed a neighbor, and found him not guilty of felony assault with a deadly weapon.

Trial began in Clark County Superior Court on Nov. 13. The 12 jurors deliberated five hours on Nov. 15 before returning a verdict.

If convicted of second-degree assault with a deadly weapon, Kauffman’s client would have faced 13 to 21 months in prison.

Kauffman was assisted at trial by attorney Gregger Highberg.

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Client who admitted using drugs acquitted of DUI

A chronic backlog at state crime labs may have benefitted a client who was found not guilty of DUI at his Nov. 9 trial in Clark County District Court.

When our client was stopped July 4 for erratic driving, he agreed to a blood test.

He did not agree to waive his right to a speedy trial, however, and both the deputy prosecutor and arresting officer told jurors at trial they hadn’t yet received the results.

Instead of going to trial without the results, the prosecutor could have dismissed the case and refiled it after receiving them.

Attorney Ross Meyers encouraged jurors to consider why a prosecutor would go to trial without the test results.

It’s the prosecution’s burden to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that a crime was committed, he said during his closing argument. The single most important piece of evidence was left out.

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Client who admitted using drugs acquitted of DUI

A chronic backlog at state crime labs may have benefitted a client who was found not guilty of DUI at his Nov. 9 trial in Clark County District Court.

When our client was stopped July 4 for erratic driving, he agreed to a blood test.

He did not agree to waive his right to a speedy trial, however, and both the deputy prosecutor and arresting officer told jurors at trial they hadn’t yet received the results.

Instead of going to trial without the results, the prosecutor could have dismissed the case and refiled it after receiving them.

Attorney Ross Meyers encouraged jurors to consider why a prosecutor would go to trial without the test results.

It’s the prosecution’s burden to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that a crime was committed, he said during his closing argument. The single most important piece of evidence was left out.

The six-member jury deliberated approximately 90 minutes before unanimously voting to acquit.

Driving under the influence, a gross misdemeanor, carries a maximum penalty of one year in jail. Meyers' client would have also had his driver’s license suspended for 90 days had he been convicted.

The Washington State Patrol trooper who made the arrest testified the client admitted he’d used methamphetamine and marijuana about 12 hours earlier but said he didn’t feel impaired.

The trooper said he made the traffic stop because the client was speeding, didn’t signal before a lane change and veered a few times onto the shoulder of the highway. He said the client had mixed results on field sobriety tests, something Meyers told jurors could be attributed to nerves. And his client’s eyes, noted by the trooper to be bloodshot and watery, could have appeared that way because he hadn’t got a good night’s sleep.

Meyers emphasized to the jury that his client, who was transported to Legacy Salmon Creek Hospital to have his blood drawn, wasn’t exhibiting any signs of stimulant abuse. His heart rate, blood pressure and temperature were all normal.

The only way to know for certain whether he was under the influence was the blood test, Meyers said.

Both the prosecutor and trooper told jurors it takes months to get results.

In October, the Department of Justice awarded $3.5 million in grants to address backlogs at Washington state crime labs. DNA testing was singled out as a priority, but one grant, worth $250,000, was specifically for additional equipment and staff at the Washington State Patrol Toxicology Lab.

Husband found not guilty of domestic violence

Attorney Katie Kauffman won a trial this week for a client accused of assaulting his wife.

Jurors deliberated approximately 30 minutes before returning the “not guilty” verdict following a daylong trial Oct. 3 in Clark County District Court.

Our client, who had no criminal history, was arrested in July after two women who’d been driving on Fourth Plain Boulevard called 911 to report that a man and a woman were having a physical altercation in a field next to a parking lot.

The first caller, who testified for the prosecution, told a dispatcher that she saw the man grab the woman and pull her hair. The second caller, who testified for the defense, said it looked as though the woman was stumbling and the man was trying to keep her from falling over. 

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Jeffrey D. Barrar, P.S.: Vancouver Defenders Jeffrey D. Barrar, P.S.
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