Blog

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

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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Client acquitted of assaulting father

Attorney Gregger Highberg won an acquittal in Clark County District Court last week for a client who was accused of assaulting her father.

Had it been up to the client’s father, the case would have been dismissed. But, as an assistant Vancouver city attorney repeatedly told jurors, this was a case the state was pursuing over the objections of the alleged victim.

The father testified during the Sept. 21 trial that any contact his daughter made with him was accidental.

The assistant city attorney may not have believed him, but jurors did. The jury deliberated approximately 30 minutes before returning the “not guilty” verdict.

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Meyer wins quick verdict in DUI trial

Attorney Zeed Meyer won a quick decision in a DUI trial earlier this month. Jurors deliberated only 20 minutes before returning a “not guilty” verdict.

Meyer’s client was stopped for speeding on state Highway 14. A Washington State trooper clocked him driving 73 mph, 13 miles over the limit. It was about 10 p.m. The trooper said he detected the odor of alcohol on the driver’s breath, and said the driver acknowledged having a few glasses of wine earlier in the day.

The driver couldn’t keep his balance during field sobriety tests and his pupils were pinpricks, both signs of intoxication, the trooper noted in his report. The driver agreed to a breath test, the results of which showed he had alcohol in his system but the amount was below the legal limit.

The trooper decided the driver was under the influence of alcohol and drugs.

The driver, a cancer survivor, told the trooper he takes multiple prescription medications.

The trooper conducted drug recognition tests and concluded the driver was under the influence of a drug that acts as a depressant on the central nervous system.

The driver agreed to a blood test, which came back negative for drugs.

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Highberg wins trial in malicious mischief case

Attorney Gregger Highberg won a trial last week in Clark County District Court for a client accused of malicious mischief in the third degree, a gross misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in jail.

Highberg’s client was accused of damaging his ex-girlfriend’s, ex-husband’s car by throwing a can at the driver’s side door panel. The alleged victim estimated repairs would cost $500 to $1000.

During the July 13 trial, Highberg argued the alleged victim was biased and there were no independent witnesses.

A jury deliberated 15 minutes in Clark County District Court before returning the not-guilty verdict.

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Cole wins acquittal in domestic violence case

Attorney Grant Cole won an acquittal this week for a client charged with criminal trespass in the first degree and malicious mischief in the third degree.

A six-member jury deliberated 30 minutes before unanimously voting “not guilty” on both charges. The daylong trial on June 28 in Clark County District Court came three months after a judge ruled the lead police officer would not be allowed to testify due to prosecutorial misconduct by an assistant Vancouver city attorney.

The trial had previously been scheduled for March 2. Two nights before trial, the police officer, under the direction of the prosecutor, called Cole’s client and questioned her without Cole’s knowledge.

In a subsequent hearing Cole argued the case should be dismissed. While Judge Chad Sleight agreed with Cole that questioning the defendant without her attorney present was a clear violation of her right to counsel and he was “outraged” by the misconduct, he decided the remedy would be to keep the police officer off the witness stand.

Even without his lead officer, the assistant city attorney went ahead and took the case to trial.

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