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Court upholds burglary conviction

A Spokane County jury properly convicted a woman who broke into another woman’s home in a frenzy of unrequited love, according to a newly released Washington Court of Appeals ruling.

The Spokane branch of the appellate court said the jury was entitled to conclude that 43-year-old Tarina Louise Cauvel’s claim to be on a mission from God and other irrational behavior didn’t prove she was mentally incapacitated.

Nor was her attorney’s performance ineffective because he didn’t ask her personal physician to testify, the court said.

Testimony indicated that Cauvel was a substitute teacher who approached another teacher at a nightclub five years after having substituted in the other woman’s class. Cauvel told the woman she loved her, and – against the woman’s wishes – began calling her, going to her home and visiting her at school.

Then, just before midnight on Aug. 7, 2003, Cauvel pounded on the woman’s door and yelled until the woman’s roommate opened it.

Cauvel pushed through the door, shoved the roommate down a stairway and went to a bedroom where the woman whom she said she loved was calling 911. While that woman and Cauvel scuffled, the roommate intervened with a gun.

Testimony indicated Cauvel was unfazed by the weapon and refused to leave even when police ordered her out. Officers had to remove her by force.

One of the officers said Cauvel claimed to have been sent by God to save the woman she had been stalking.

Dr. Clay Jorgensen, a Spokane psychologist, testified that Cauvel had been treated for depression and that she suffered from a “schizo type of personality disorder.” He contended she couldn’t form the intent necessary for conviction of first-degree burglary.

But Dr. Daniel Lord-Flynn, an Eastern State Hospital psychologist, said Cauvel knew what she was doing even though she had a mood and personality disorder and abused alcohol. Lord-Flynn’s opinion and testimony about Cauvel’s actions were sufficient for a conviction, a three-judge Court of Appeals panel concluded.

The appellate judges also rejected Cauvel’s argument that Assistant Public Defender Al Rossi should have presented testimony by Cauvel’s personal physician.

“We strongly presume effective representation,” the appellate panel wrote, declining to second-guess Rossi’s strategy and noting that Jorgensen testified about Cauvel’s prior treatment.

Cauvel was convicted of obstructing police as well as the burglary charge and was sentenced to 15 months in prison on both counts.