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Supreme Court condemns teen to virtual life sentence

September 9, 2022 – Despite previously ruling in State v. Haag that de facto life sentences for juvenile offenders are unconstitutional, the Washington State Supreme Court walks back on their decision and, in a 5-4 split, condemns a teen to a 61-year sentence in State v. Anderson. 

Mr. Haag, a white man who was 17 years old at the time he committed his crime, saw his conviction of a 46-year sentence struck down as unconstitutional. In stark contrast, Mr. Anderson, a Black man who was also 17 years old at the time of his crime, saw the Washington Supreme Court uphold his 61-year sentence.

WAP Attorney Travis Stearns, Mr. Anderson’s lawyer, had this to say:

It is disturbing that youthful white offenders who have appeared before the Supreme Court received relief that Mr. Anderson, who is Black, did not.


Mr. Anderson has spent his time in prison making up for his mistakes. After decades of infraction-free life, he should have the opportunity to show his rehabilitation is genuine and receive a second look at his sentence. Unlike almost every other Washington youth who committed serious crimes, he will never have that chance.


For more information, please read these articles:

Washington Supreme Court OKs virtual life term for teen” by Gene Johnson.
WA Supreme Court upholds teen’s 61-year sentence in Tukwila double murder” by Sara Jean Green.

Opinions: State v. AndersonState v. Haag

Updated: 9/9/22 at 1:55 PM.

Reversal and dismissal in State v. Denton for speedy trial violation

September 7, 2022 – On August 31, 2022, Division III of the Court of Appeals rejected the trial court’s treatment of the speedy trial rules as “merely aspirational,” holding the State’s routine, anticipated backlogs in its crime lab that resulted in a 204-day delay between Mr. Denton’s arraignment and the State obtaining the DNA evidence violated Mr. Denton’s right to speedy trial and required reversal and dismissal of his convictions.

Congratulations to Mr. Denton and WAP Attorney Kate Benward on this outcome!

Read the published opinion here.

The ongoing fight against racial discrimination in jury selection

January 19, 2022 – As all-white juries continue to dominate, what is being done around the nation to combat the lack of diversity?

An excellent article from the Washington Post sheds light on the persisting issues surrounding racial discrimination in juries across the nation. It explores the reasons why our juries remain so predominantly white, and discusses the ongoing efforts being made to eliminate racial bias in jury selection. Lila Silverstein, a WAP attorney, is at the forefront of these efforts.

An excerpt from the article:

In 1986, the Supreme Court ruled in the case of Batson v. Kentucky that the opposing attorney can object to a peremptory strike but has to show that the dismissal was an act of intentional racial discrimination. Advocates for increasing jury diversity say that bar has proven to be nearly impossible to clear. But in 2018, thanks to Byng and Silverstein’s advocacy, Washington became the first state to adopt rules aimed at eliminating not just intentional, but also implicit, bias in jury selection. […]


“Anecdotally, we are seeing that lawyers are being much more careful about exercising peremptory challenges to exclude jurors and that judges are sustaining objections to peremptory challenges much more frequently than they did before,” Silverstein said. “On the appellate level, there have been several cases over the last few years where the courts are reversing convictions where lawyers exercised inappropriate peremptory challenges,” she added, noting that in State v. Jefferson, the Washington Supreme Court reversed a murder conviction.


This has been a major shift in Washington, said Silverstein, who added that there had never been a reversal for racial discrimination in jury selection in the state before the new rule, despite the issue being raised more than 40 times since the federal Supreme Court decision in Batson v. Kentucky.


To learn more, please read: “Many juries in America remain mostly White, prompting states to take action to eliminate racial discrimination in their selection” by Emmanuel Felton (washingtonpost.com)

On Ahmaud Arbery, Charlottesville, and Racism in Jury Selection

December 21, 2021 – WAP attorney Lila Silverstein, known for her efforts on Batson reform, was recently interviewed for an article on systemic racial issues within jury selection.

The article, published by Truthout, provides timely and compelling insight into the ongoing racism within the jury selection process in light of recent events such as the murder of Ahmaud Arbery as well as the Charlottesville ‘Unite the Right’ civil trial.

An excerpt from the article:

Accusations of bias against police often figure heavily in excluding non-white jurors. Because of systemic racism throughout the U.S. criminal legal system, Black people and other people of color tend to have more unpleasant experiences with police. Because of these experiences, whichever side intends to call police to the stand tends to claim the juror of color in question cannot be impartial.


“It’s almost as if the system says, ‘Well, we get to discriminate against you again because you’ve been discriminated against in all these other areas of the system,’” says Lila Silverstein, a lawyer with the Washington Appellate Project, an organization that helps people who cannot afford legal representation.


To learn more, please read: “The Jury Selection Process Is Rigged in Favor of White Supremacy” by Laura Jedeed (truthout.org).

COVID-19: Statewide restrictions lifted as of June 30; new office policies for reopening

Under Governor Inslee’s Washington Ready plan, COVID-19 restrictions have been lifted statewide as of June 30. The Washington Appellate Project will now be transitioning to normal office hours – 9:00 AM to 5:00PM, Monday to Friday. In compliance with Inslee’s reopening guidelines, our office requires that face masks be worn unless the visitor is fully vaccinated or has a condition that prevents them from wearing a mask. Masks will remain available for all guests if needed.

The safety of our employees, clients and community while continuing to meet our obligations to our clients remains a top priority for our office.