Everything tagged

Latest from The Spokesman-Review

STA wins high-profile fan

We may have found a spokesman for a Spokane Transit Authority ad campaign.

Former state Supreme Court Chief Justice Gerry Alexander has been flying to Spokane every couple weeks in the last few months to serve as one of the Spokane's five Use of Force commissioners.

After he disembarks from his plane at Spokane International Airport, he takes a Spokane Transit Authority bus downtown.

“I really enjoy that bus ride,” Alexander said. “It's really a handy way to get in from the Airport.”

(This praise for the bus was unsolicited when I asked him a few questions after Thursday's Use of Force Commission meeting.)

Alexander is reimbursed for his plane trip and often a meal when he's in Spokane. He usually flies in the morning and flies out after the meeting

He does not bother getting reimbursed for the $1.50 bus ride.

Retired state chief justice surprised by health care ruling

Retired state Supreme Court Justice Gerry Alexander was in Spokane Thursday for the last scheduled meeting of the city's Use of Force Commission.

Afterward, we asked him about his thoughts about this morning's U.S. Supreme Court decision that upheld most of the Affordable Care Act.

“I had previously thought that they would strike the mandate down,” said Alexander, outside the Spokane City Council chambers. “It seemed to me that they were taking the Commerce Clause where it hadn't gone before.”

Alexander, who was appointed to the Use of Force Commission by Mayor David Condon, said he followed the case, but hadn't read the ruling Thursday afternoon. The majority of justices agreed with Alexander about the Commerce Clause, but a different majority upheld the law under Congress's taxing authority.

“I felt all along they could pass a tax for this,” Alexander said.

Ex-justice to serve on Zehm committee

Gerry Alexander, who retired last year as the chief justice of the Washington State Supreme Court, will serve on the city's Use of Force Commission.

The commission was created last year by former Mayor Mary Verner to review the city's handling of the police confrontation that resulted in the death of Otto Zehm in 2006.

Read more at the Spin Control blog. 

Retired chief justice will serve on Zehm overview committee

Gerry Alexander, who retired last year as the chief justice of the Washington State Supreme Court, will serve on the city's Use of Force Commission.

The commission was created last year by former Mayor Mary Verner to review the city's handling of the police confrontation that resulted in the death of Otto Zehm in 2006. Mayor David Condon endorsed the concept and supported her choice of former Gonzaga Law School Dean Earl Martin to lead it.

Membership of the five-member committee was announced at a City Council meeting on Monday by Council President Ben Stuckart. The council is set to confirm the membership next week.

The vice chairman will be former attorney Bill Hyslop, who served as the U.S. attorney for Eastern Washington during the administration of President George H.W. Bush.

The other two members will be Ivan Bush, the Spokane Public Schools' equal opportunity officer; and Susan Hammond, director of outpatient and psychiatric services for Spokane Mental Health.

Condon has said he hopes the commission concluds its review by June.

High court throws out murder conviction

SEATTLE (AP) — Washington's Supreme Court threw out a defendant's aggravated murder conviction Thursday because he wasn't present when his lawyers, prosecutors and judge agreed by e-mail to dismiss seven people from his jury pool.

In the 5-4 decision, the justices said criminal defendants have a right to be present at all critical trial stages — including the dismissal of jurors for hardship reasons. Terrance Irby was not there and was not consulted when his legal team agreed with a suggestion by Skagit County Superior Court Judge John Meyer that certain potential jurors be sent home.

“Their alleged inability to serve was never tested by questioning in Irby's presence,” Justice Gerry Alexander wrote for the majority. “Indeed, they were not questioned at all.”

The ruling was the second time that unseated Justice Richard Sanders has been in a 5-4 majority overturning a defendant's conviction since his term expired Jan. 10. Sanders, a libertarian who has often sided with defendants who come before the court, was defeated in his re-election bid by Justice Charles Wiggins last fall.

The remaining members of the court have appointed Sanders as a temporary judge to rule on cases whose oral arguments he heard before his term expired.

Skagit County prosecutors, however, tried to have Sanders kicked off Irby's case this month. They argued that the state Constitution allows only judges who retire voluntarily — not those whose authority has been revoked by the voters — to be appointed as temporary judges. If the remaining eight justices who heard the oral arguments were deadlocked, the case should be reheard with Wiggins sitting, they wrote.

The court unanimously denied the motion in a one-page order.

Irby, then 48, was convicted in 2007 of beating and stabbing an acquaintance, James Rock, two years earlier. He was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of release.

Skagit County deputy prosecutor Erik Pedersen said the state might ask to court to reconsider its ruling, but failing that, prosecutors will retry Irby.

The jurors were dismissed after filling out questionnaires evaluating their qualifications for serving on a jury, but before the process known as “voir dire,” in which attorneys on each side question them about potential biases or other issues. Six were dismissed for hardship reasons, and one was dismissed after writing that one of his or her parents had been murdered.

The dissenting justices wrote that the hardship dismissals were administrative and well within the purview of the trial court; there was no reason Irby needed to be there for that. But the dismissal of the juror whose parent had been murdered was related to the substance of the case and therefore Irby should have been present, Chief Justice Barbara Madsen wrote.

Nevertheless, she said, that error was harmless: Defendants do not have a right to have a specific juror on their case, and there's no evidence the jury he had was biased against him.

“We should recognize and give effect to this distinction so that the constitutional right of a defendant to be present at critical stages of the trial is protected while at the same time preserving the trial court's discretion to make administrative decisions,” Madsen wrote.

Justices Charles Johnson, James Johnson and Mary Fairhurst signed the dissent.

Justices Tom Chambers, Susan Owens and Debra Stephens joined Sanders and Alexander in the majority.

Irby's attorney, David Koch, called the decision extremely important.

“This reaffirms the right to be present for the selection of one's jury,” he said.

Online poker and betting: High Court doubles down

Mike Poppke and his “poker-playing  buddy” Prince, a Malamute/Husky mix, attend a Poker Player Alliance rally on the steps of the state Capitol Thursday.


OLYMPIA – The Washington Supreme Court was asked to decide Thursday whether Internet poker is merely a 21st Century twist on a friendly game played at the kitchen table or “the crack cocaine of gambling.”

Online gambling is illegal in Washington, and should remain that way, assistant attorney general Jerry Ackerman said, because it can’t be regulated and monitored like casino gambling. Internet sites can’t prevent minors from playing, or cut off compulsive gamblers, he said.

But Lee Rousso, who is challenging the law, said the ban is “illegally protectionist” because it helps local gambling operations by banning out-of-state or out-of-country operations. Internet gambling sites are regulated, just not by the state, he said.

The justices seemed skeptical of the legal distinction the state makes between games played in a casino or licensed card room, and on the Internet.

For more on this story, go inside the blog