Court of Appeals Division II
State of Washington
Opinion Information Sheet
Docket Number: 39254-2
Title of Case: State Of Washington, Respondent V. Rhonda L. Marchi, Appellant
File Date: 12/07/2010
SOURCE OF APPEAL
Appeal from Clallam Superior Court
Docket No: 06-1-00598-7
Judgment or order under review
Date filed: 04/30/2009
Judge signing: Honorable Kenneth Day Williams
Authored by Marywave Van Deren
Concurring: Lisa Worswick
David H. Armstrong
COUNSEL OF RECORD
Counsel for Appellant(s)
Gregory Charles Link
Washington Appellate Project
1511 3rd Ave Ste 701
Seattle, WA, 98101-3635
Counsel for Respondent(s)
Brian Patrick Wendt
Clallam County Prosecuting Attorney's Of
223 E 4th St Ste 11
Port Angeles, WA, 98362-3015
IN THE COURT OF APPEALS OF THE STATE OF WASHINGTON
STATE OF WASHINGTON,
Respondent, No. 39254-2-II
v. PUBLISHED OPINION
RHONDA L. MARCHI,
Van Deren, J. -- Rhonda L. Marchi appeals her convictions for attempted first degree
murder and first degree assault of a child. She argues that (1) convictions for both crimes violate
her right to be free from double jeopardy and (2) the trial court erred in failing to instruct the jury
that it was the State's burden to disprove her diminished capacity defense beyond a reasonable
doubt. We affirm the trial court's ruling that the State has no burden to disprove her diminished
capacity defense, but, under the facts of this case, Marchi's conviction for first degree assault of a
child violates double jeopardy and must be vacated. We thus remand for resentencing for
attempted first degree murder only.
In December 2006, 10 year old MH, visited her father in Boise, Idaho. On December 25,
MH returned home to her mother, Rhonda Marchi. Marchi met MH at the airport and they drove
back to their home in Port Angeles, Washington. "On the drive home [from the airport], MH . .
. told [Marchi] about a disparaging remark her stepmother made regarding [Marchi]. MH told
[Marchi] this because it hurt her feelings to hear her mother criticized." Clerk's Papers (CP) at
They arrived home and prepared for bed. MH went to Marchi's room to watch a movie.
At about 10:30 pm, Marchi insisted that MH drink a cup of water containing "medicine" to cure a
toothache that MH had earlier complained about. Report of Proceedings (RP) (Mar. 10, 2009) at
22. The "medicine" was actually a potent drug cocktail1 that quickly rendered MH unconscious.
When MH became unconscious, Marchi went to her computer and accessed a document
titled "'Last Will dot.doc.'" RP (Mar. 12, 2009) at 84. At 2:05 am, Marchi called 911 to report
that she deliberately gave MH a potent drug cocktail. Emergency personnel found MH
unconscious and unresponsive. She remained at a decreased level of consciousness for several
hours and began responding only when she was administered a third drug reversal agent.
The State charged Marchi with attempted first degree murder and first degree assault of a
child under RCW 9A.36.120(1)(a). At trial, Marchi argued that she did not have the requisite
mens rea to commit the offenses due to diminished capacity. As evidence of her diminished
capacity, Marchi introduced expert medical testimony and proffered lay testimony from her
friends and family who had observed her physical and mental health deteriorate in the months
before the incident.
Marchi's medical expert testified that she suffered from major depressive disorder, certain
1 The drug cocktail included 20-100 crushed tablets of an assortment of prescribed medications:
Lorazepam, Clonazepam, and Trazodone, which are all central nervous system depressants, and
Hydrocodone, a narcotic analgesis.
anxiety disorders, and borderline personality disorder. Her expert opined that she was
emotionally and psychologically fragile, which reduced her ability to fully reason and function.
When Marchi heard MH relay the disparaging comments made by her stepmother, her emotional
state deteriorated further, substantially impairing her ability to form the intent to commit murder.
The State's rebuttal medical expert opined that Marchi suffered from personality disorder
not otherwise specified. The State's expert saw no evidence suggesting that Marchi was unable
to act intentionally on the night of the incident.
A jury convicted Marchi of both crimes and the trial court imposed a mitigated sentence of
12 years' confinement. The court noted that Marchi had done something atrocious, but mitigated
the sentence because she called 911 and because there were "some mental health reasons that at
least explain -- not excuse -- but at least explain to some degree what might have occurred." RP
(Apr. 30, 2009) at 69.
I. Double Jeopardy
Marchi first contends that her convictions for attempted first degree murder and first
degree assault of a child violate her right to be free from double jeopardy. Our state constitution
provides, "No person shall be . . . twice put in jeopardy for the same offense." Wash. Const. art.
I, § 9; accord, U.S. Const. amend. V. If double jeopardy results from a conviction for more than
one crime, the remedy is vacation of the lesser offense. State v. Weber, 159 Wn.2d 252, 265, 149
P.3d 646 (2006).
When the relevant statutes do not expressly disclose legislative intent to treat the charged
crimes as the same offense, we determine whether the charged crimes are the same in law and
fact. This is known as the Blockburger test. Blockburger v. United States, 284 U.S. 299, 52 S.
Ct. 180, 76 L. Ed. 306 (1932); In re Pers. Restraint of Orange, 152 Wn.2d 795, 816-17, 100
P.3d 291 (2004). The Blockburger test is a rule of statutory construction used to discern
legislative purpose. State v. Calle, 125 Wn.2d 769, 778, 888 P.2d 155 (1995). We must answer
two questions -- whether the two charged crimes arose from the same act and, if so, whether the
evidence supporting conviction of one crime was sufficient to support conviction of the other
crime. Orange, 152 Wn.2d at 820. "The applicable rule is that, where the same act or transaction
constitutes a violation of two distinct statutory provisions, the test to be applied to determine
whether there are two offenses or only one is whether each provision requires proof of an
additional fact which the other does not." Blockburger, 284 U.S. at 304.
Here, the two charged crimes arose from the same act, i.e., Marchi drugging MH.
Because serving the drug cocktail is both the assault and the substantial step toward first degree
murder, the charged crimes are the same in fact. The more difficult question is whether the
offenses are the same in law.
The State argues that the intent required for first degree assault of a child is insufficient to
support a conviction for attempted first degree murder, which requires premeditation. And the
State argues that, unlike the attempted first degree murder statute, the first degree assault of a
child statute requires the State to prove an age differential element. We disagree.
Evidence required to support a conviction for attempted first degree murder in this case
was sufficient to convict Marchi of first degree child assault as charged. The State charged
Marchi under RCW 9A.36.120(1)(a), which states, "A person eighteen years of age or older is
guilty of the crime of assault of a child in the first degree if the child is under the age of thirteen
and the person . . . [c]ommits the crime of assault in the first degree, as defined in RCW
9A.36.011, against the child." RCW 9A.36.120(1)(a) incorporates RCW 9A.36.011 entirely,
meaning that the only difference between the two statutes is that RCW 9A.36.120(1)(a) specifies
an age differential element. But under the facts in this case, where Marchi was convicted of
attempted first degree murder against a child younger than 13, the evidence required to convict on
the attempted first degree murder charge is sufficient to convict Marchi of first degree assault of a
child. See Orange, 152 Wn.2d at 820 (attempted first degree murder and first degree assault are
the same in law).
We confirm our understanding that the legislature intended to preclude multiple
punishments for the crimes of first degree attempted murder and first degree assault of a child by
considering other indicia legislative intent. We determine legislative intent based on legislative
history, the structure of statutes, their purpose, or other sources. State v. Hughes, 166 Wn.2d
675, 684, 212 P.3d 558 (2009).
Based on the vulnerability of young victims, the legislature passed RCW 9A.36.120 to
enhance penalties and to address concerns arising from an adult perpetrator's ongoing child abuse
of a child younger than 13. Final Legislative Report, 52nd Leg., at 118 (Wash. 1992). The
Senate Journal also contains pertinent points of inquiry buttressing the legislature's concern with
ongoing child abuse. During debate on the statute, Senator Gary Nelson specifically noted, "'We
are trying to get to those situations where an adult repeats the offense against a child -- several
times -- and based on the harm done to the child establishes then whether it is going to be assault
against the child in the first, second, or third degree.'" 1 Senate Journal, 52nd Leg. Reg. Sess., at
302 (Wash. 1992). He added that the intent was not to modify the existing law but rather to put
child assault between simple assault and homicide by abuse to "'reflect what might be the
continuous or repetitive type of assaults that are done against children.'" 1 Senate Journal, 52nd
Leg. Reg. Sess., at 302 (Wash. 1992).
Considering this legislative history, we conclude that the legislature intended RCW
9A.36.120 to increase punishment of adults assaulting children younger than 13 by punishing
ongoing child abuse with the same severity as first degree assault, even though the individual
incidents of ongoing child abuse may not amount to first degree assault. With evidence of
ongoing child abuse, the State may charge a class A felony under RCW 9A.36.120(1)(b) and,
upon conviction, it carries a seriousness level of XII -- the same as first degree assault -- based on
a quantum of evidence that may not amount to first degree assault under RCW 9A.36.011.
Former RCW 9.94A.515 (2006). Accordingly, RCW 9A.36.120(1)(b) serves the legislative intent
to increase the punishment for ongoing child abuse.
Understanding how RCW 9A.36.120(1)(b) effectuates the legislative intent to punish
ongoing or repetitive child abuse illuminates that RCW 9A.36.120(1)(a) does not do so because
the evidence that RCW 9A.36.120(1)(a) requires for conviction is identical to that required under
RCW 9A.36.011, first degree assault, in which an age differential is irrelevant. Conviction under
either RCW 9A.36.120(1)(a) or RCW 9A.36.011 results in a class A felony with a seriousness
level of XII. RCW 9A.36.120(2); RCW 9A.36.011(2); former RCW 9.94A.515. Thus, while
RCW 9A.36.120(1)(b) clearly serves the legislature's intent to increase punishment for ongoing
or repetitive child abuse not rising to the level of first degree assault, RCW 9A.36.120(1)(a)
replicates the first degree assault statute, RCW 9A.36.011, and results in the same punishment.2
The sole difference between RCW 9A.36.120(1)(a) and RCW 9A.36.011 is that RCW
9A.36.120(1)(a) states that the perpetrator be 18 or older and that the child be younger than 13.
But the age differential is significant only when the State attempts to establish first degree child
assault under RCW 9A.36.011(1)(b) with a quantum of evidence that does not amount to first
degree assault under RCW 9A.36.011 or a greater crime that encompasses the same conduct.
Otherwise, when the evidence amounts to attempted first degree murder or first degree assault, as
it did here, the State establishes a child assault under RCW 9A.36.120(1)(a) by virtue of RCW
9A.36.011. As the evidence needed to establish RCW 9A.36.120(1)(a) or RCW 9A.36.011 is the
same, the age differential has no effect on the outcome.
The legislature did not intend to punish a one-time assault of a child that satisfies the
elements of attempted first degree murder by imposing an additional punishment for the first
degree assault of a child. This outcome is consistent with the conclusion that imposing
punishment for both attempted first degree murder and first degree assault violates the
defendant's right to be free from double jeopardy. Orange, 152 Wn.2d at 816-17. Thus, we hold
that Marchi's conviction for first degree assault of a child violated Marchi's right to be free from
double jeopardy and we remand for dismissal of the first degree assault conviction and for
resentencing only on her conviction for attempted first degree murder.
II. Jury Instructions on Diminished Capacity
Marchi next contends that the trial court erred when it failed to instruct the jury that the
State had the burden of disproving Marchi's diminished capacity defense beyond a reasonable
2 Marchi's convictions may also have encompassed the same criminal conduct. RCW
9.94A.589(1)(a) ("Same criminal conduct" means "two or more crimes that require the same
criminal intent, are committed at the same time and place, and involve the same victim.").
doubt. She argues that the State had the burden because evidence of her diminished capacity
negated the mens rea element of first degree murder. Marchi asks us to overturn existing case
law that treats diminished capacity as evidence a jury may consider when determining the
defendant's mental state and to, instead, treat it as an affirmative defense to the charges that the
State must disprove. To the extent Marchi argues that diminished capacity adds an element to the
charged offense that the State must disprove, we have twice rejected that argument. State v. Sao,
156 Wn. App. 67, 76, 230 P.3d 277 (2010); State v. James, 47 Wn. App. 605, 608, 736 P.2d 700
(1987).3 We adhere to those decisions here.
"Parties are entitled to [jury] instructions that, when taken as a whole, properly instruct
the jury on the applicable law, are not misleading, and allow each party the opportunity to argue
their theory of the case." State v. Redmond, 150 Wn.2d 489, 493, 78 P.3d 1001 (2003). When
read together, jury instructions must inform the jury that the State bears the burden of proving
every essential element of a criminal defense beyond a reasonable doubt. State v. Pirtle, 127
Wn.2d 628, 656, 904 P.2d 245 (1995). "It is reversible error to instruct the jury in a manner that
would relieve the State of this burden." Pirtle, 127 Wn.2d at 656.
"We review a challenged jury instruction de novo, evaluating it in the context of the
3 Division One of this court has also rejected the argument that the court must give an instruction
expressly stating that the State bears the burden of disproving intoxication. State v. Fuller, 42
Wn. App. 53, 55, 708 P.2d 413 (1985). In Fuller, the defendant presented expert testimony that
he did not have the mental capacity to knowingly assault the victims because he was suffering
from severe depression and intoxication at the time of the crimes. 42 Wn. App. at 54. The court
held, "An instruction on burden of proof similar to the one given on self-defense need not be
given because [intoxication] is not a legally recognized defense. . . . Intoxication may raise a
reasonable doubt as to the mental state element of the offense, thus leading to acquittal or
conviction of a lesser included offense, but evidence of intoxication does not add another element
to the offense." Fuller, 42 Wn. App. at 55.
instructions as a whole." Pirtle, 127 Wn.2d at 656. When a defendant presents substantial
evidence of a mental illness or disorder and the evidence logically and reasonably connects the
defendant's alleged mental condition with the inability to form the mental state necessary to
commit the charged crime, a trial court must give a diminished capacity instruction. State v.
Cienfuegos, 144 Wn.2d 222, 227, 25 P.3d 1011 (2001); State v. Tilton, 149 Wn.2d 775, 784, 72
P.3d 735 (2003).
Here, the trial court gave the following diminished capacity instruction: "Evidence of
mental illness or disorder may be taken into consideration in determining whether the defendant
had the capacity to form intent." CP at 133. It also instructed the jury that the State had the
burden to prove each element of the charged crimes beyond a reasonable doubt. It did not
instruct the jury that the State had to disprove Marchi's diminished capacity claim.
The diminished capacity jury instruction allows a jury to take evidence of diminished
capacity into account when determining whether the defendant could form the requisite mental
state. State v. Stumpf, 64 Wn. App. 522, 524-25, 827 P.2d 294 (1992); James, 47 Wn. App. at
608. When diminished capacity is pleaded as a defense it is treated as a rule of evidence that
allows the defense to introduce evidence relevant to subjective states of mind. Stumpf, 64 Wn.
App. at 525 n.2 (citing John Q. La Fond & Kimberly A. Gaddis, Washington's Diminished
Capacity Defense Under Attack, in 13 U. Puget Sound L. Rev. 1, 22 (1989)).4 "'Diminished
4 Washington's Diminished Capacity Defense Under Attack states:
[T]he so-called diminished capacity defense in Washington is essentially a rule of
evidence. Some of the cases admit expert evidence to prove that the defendant
lacked the "capacity" or "ability" to form the necessary mental element, while
others hold that expert evidence is relevant to prove the defendant did not act with
the necessary state of mind. Some commingle the two approaches. Regardless of
the precise form of the expert testimony, it is simply a court-made rule which
permits a defendant in a criminal trial to introduce evidence relevant to the
capacity arises out of a mental disorder, usually not amounting to insanity, that is demonstrated to
have a specific effect on one's capacity to achieve the level of culpability required for a given
crime.'" Stumpf, 64 Wn. App. at 524 (quoting State v. Gough, 53 Wn. App. 619, 622, 768 P.2d
"As a defense, diminished capacity allows a defendant to negate the culpable mental state
element of a crime 'by showing that a given mental disorder had a specific effect by which his
ability to entertain that mental state was diminished.'" Stumpf, 64 Wn. App. at 525 (quoting
Gough, 53 Wn. App. at 622). This defense "is available if the defendant was unable to form the
'specific intent' required to commit the crime charged." State v. Nuss, 52 Wn. App. 735, 738,
763 P.2d 1249 (1988).
Marchi's argument mirrors the appellant's argument that we first rejected in James. 47
Wn. App. 605. James relied on a diminished capacity defense based on intoxication and
depression. James, 47 Wn. App. at 606-07. He argued that a trial court must instruct the jury
that the State bears the burden to disprove his diminished capacity defense beyond a reasonable
doubt. James, 47 Wn. App. at 608. Like Marchi, James likened diminished capacity to self-
defense. James, 47 Wn. App. at 608.
We rejected James's argument because self-defense is a lawful act that absolves the actor
of culpability and, consequently, the absence of self-defense is an element the State must prove.
James, 47 Wn. App. at 608. When self-defense is pleaded, a specific burden of proof instruction
is necessary to avoid juror confusion about who has the burden of proof on the self-defense issue.
presence or absence of subjective states of mind. It is not a plea in mitigation, an
affirmative defense, or a normative re-fashioning of the culpability elements of the
13 U. Puget Sound L. Rev. at 22 (footnotes omitted).
James, 47 Wn. App. at 608. In James, we clarified that, unlike self-defense, diminished capacity
caused by intoxication is not a "true" defense. 47 Wn. App. at 608. Neither intoxication nor
diminished capacity adds an additional element to the charged offense. James, 47 Wn. App. at
608. We reaffirmed this reasoning in Sao. 156 Wn. App. at 76.
And, contrary to Marchi's argument, the requirements for establishing diminished capacity
are essentially the same as those required to prove intoxication. Compare State v. Washington,
36 Wn. App. 792, 793, 677 P.2d 786 (1984), with State v. Griffin, 100 Wn.2d 417, 418-19, 670
P.2d 265 (1983). Perhaps, more importantly, neither diminished capacity nor intoxication is a
complete defense but, rather, is evidence the jury may take into account when determining
whether the defendant could form the requisite mental state to commit the crime. Stumpf, 64 Wn.
App. at 524; James, 47 Wn. App. at 608.
We hold that the trial court's instructions clearly and unambiguously allocated the burden
to the State of proving the crimes beyond a reasonable doubt. The jury instructions sufficiently
informed the jury that the State had the burden of proving Marchi's intent beyond a reasonable
doubt. And the trial court instructed the jury that it could consider her mental illness or disorder
when deciding if the State proved that she acted with the requisite intent. We find no error in the
trial court's instruction.
We remand to the trial court to dismiss the conviction for first degree assault of a child as
a matter of law and for resentencing for attempted first degree murder only.
Van Deren, J.