Stabbing a man in the neck, leaving him paralyzed below the chest and in a wheelchair for life, isn’t grounds for an exceptional sentence, the Washington Supreme Court has ruled, returning a case that originated in Pend Orielle County to Superior Court for re-sentencing.
Troy Dean Stubbs was sentenced to 38 years in prison for the first-degree assault against Ryan E. Goodwin after a jury determined that the attack was particularly egregious.
In October 2005, the two men were at a birthday gathering near Cusick, Wash., when Stubbs stabbed Goodwin in the back of the neck, severing Goodwin’s spinal cord. Goodwin, then 22, was holding a propane torch at the time, which started a fire. He couldn’t move his legs but was able to put the fire out with his hands and call for help, according to court documents.
Superior Court Judge Rebecca Baker agreed with prosecutors to give Stubbs, now 44, the longer sentence after the jury determined that the attack was particularly egregious. Stubbs faced a standard range of 13 1/2 to 20 years in prison.
The Court of Appeals upheld the sentencing.
The Washington Supreme Court found, however, that “Although the injuries Goodwin suffered were significant, we conclude that, under the statutory regime, no injury can ‘substantially exceed’ the level of bodily harm necessary to satisfy the element of ‘great bodily harm,’” the opinion reads. “Therefore, we hold that the trial court erred by relying on the jury’s finding regarding the severity of Goodwin’s injuries to justify the exceptional sentence that it imposed.”