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Prosecutorial Misconduct Leads to New Trial for WAP Client

April 5, 2021 – Court of Appeals Division II reverses a second-degree murder conviction due to repeated ‘ill-intentioned’ misconducts by the prosecutor.

A new trial awaits a man who was accused of killing his mother in 2018 in their Tacoma home.

Client Sebastian Levy-Aldrete argued on appeal that he did not receive a fair trial due to numerous instances of misconduct by the Pierce county prosecutor, and the Court agreed on Tuesday.
“The cumulative effect of these repeated instances of misconduct were substantially likely to have affected the verdict,” Judge Lisa Sutton wrote in the opinion. “Thus, we hold that Levy-Aldrete has met his burden to show reversible prosecutorial misconduct.”

His attorney, Richard Lechich, points out prior cases wherein misconduct was involved within Pierce County, stating that “the previous prosecutor and their office had this reputation.”

To read more on this topic, please visit the following article by The News Tribune.

COVID-19: Lawsuit Fights for Immediate Access to Vaccine for Those in DOC custody

April 2, 2021 – Lawsuit filed by incarcerated individuals also demands that DOC provide accurate information about the COVID vaccine and to protect those incarcerated from staff who refuse to take the vaccine.

Petitioners Candis Rush, Justin Autrey, and Gregory Steen filed a lawsuit against the Washington State Department of Corrections (DOC), citing abysmal conditions for those in DOC custody and the department’s refusal to provide vaccines. The lawsuit demands that the Department of Health (DOH) and DOC take action immediately and provide vaccine access for those incarcerated.

In their press release, Columbia Legal Services (CLS) writes that merely allocating doses is not a sufficient solution. Other problems such as increased distrust between staff and residents due to DOC prioritizing vaccines for staff as well as preventing those incarcerated from receiving any information or news about the vaccine are all contributing to the increased risk.  “It is imperative that the DOH, and DOC partner not only with each other, but also engage with authentic, respected voices in the community to help spread accurate information and build trust around the vaccine and DOC’s ability to properly administer it,” said Tony Gonzalez, the CLS attorney who represents the plaintiffs in the lawsuit.

To learn more about the lawsuit and CLS’s advocacy efforts, please read the CLS press release.

State Supreme Court Decision Revolutionizes Washington’s Drug Laws


Press Contact:

Richard Lechich, Staff Attorney

(206) 587-2711 ex. 205



February 25, 2021 – Court’s opinion in Blake decriminalizes unknowing drug possession, joining 49 other states

(Olympia, WA) – The Washington Supreme Court struck down today the state’s drug possession law as unconstitutional because it allows people to be convicted of a crime for completely innocent conduct.

Police found a small baggie of drugs in the coin pocket of Shannon Blake’s jeans, and charged her with drug possession – a felony punishable by up to five years in prison and a hefty fine.  But Ms. Blake did not use drugs.  Her friend had purchased the jeans secondhand and gifted them to her two days prior.  Although Ms. Blake was unaware of the drugs, she was found guilty because Washington law does not require proof that a defendant knowingly possessed drugs.

The Court concluded the law unconstitutionally criminalized “passive and innocent nonconduct” and that Ms. Blake was convicted although the prosecutor did not prove that she “did anything except wear jeans that had pockets.”

The Court expressed concern that the law could extend criminal liability to those who “pick up the wrong bag at the airport, the wrong jacket at the concert, or even the wrong briefcase at the courthouse.  Or a child might carry an adult’s backpack, not knowing that it contains the adult’s illegal drugs.”

“The Court correctly recognized the injustice of convicting people for innocent conduct,” said Richard Lechich, a Staff Attorney at the Washington Appellate Project who argued the case before the Court.  “While the decision cannot rectify the harm this law caused to so many communities, particularly communities of color, it at least puts an end to it.”

As a result of the Court’s decision, Washington joins 49 other states and the federal government in recognizing that the unknowing possession of drugs is not a crime.

The full opinion in State v. Blake is available on the Court’s website.

ALERT: Phone scam targets incarcerated individuals and their families

(December 12, 2020) – The Pierce County Prosecutor warns that a company has been contacting families of incarcerated individuals, offering $1,500 services to aid their loved ones in requesting a resentencing hearing.

Prosecutor Mary Robnett warned that families have been receiving calls offering $1,500 to aid their loved ones in requesting a resentencing hearing, wrongly implying that certified court documents are needed to request one as per a new Washington law.

Please note there is no need for “certified” court documents and no need to pay to request resentencing. The law the scam refers to, Senate Bill 6164, makes no mention of such a requirement.

Please notify others of this scam and contact us if you have any questions or concerns.


To read the full text of Senate Bill 6164, click here.

To read an article from The News Tribune regarding the scam, click here.

COVID-19: Statewide restrictions announced on November 15

In compliance with the Governor’s November 15, 2020 proclamation, the Washington Appellate Project will be closed to the public until restrictions are lifted. Echoing our response to the original Stay Home proclamation from March, attorneys and staff will continue to primarily work remotely. A limited number of personnel will be present in the office; administrative staff will be in office on Mondays and Wednesdays to answer calls and process mailings. The best way to contact our office is by calling on these days, sending a letter, or filling out our contact form.

We remain committed to ensuring the safety of our employees and community while continuing to meet our obligations to our clients.

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