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Latest from The Spokesman-Review

$17 records dispute reaches state Appellate Court

A disagreement between Spokane County prosecutors and a man facing a felony harassment charge over a 911 call recording costing $17 was decided by a three-member panel of the Washington state Court of Appeals this week.

“Neither party, out of principle, will budge one cent,” wrote Judge George B. Fearing in a decision handed down Thursday. The court ordered Daniel Lee Brown must pay the fee to get a copy of the phone call that sent him to jail on suspicions he'd threatened to kill his girlfriend's new beau in January 2012.

Brown had argued his requirement to pay for the record violated his state constitutional rights as a criminal defendant. Prosecutors countered Brown filed his appeal of a trial court order “to make a point” and asked rhetorically, “is the defendant entitled to get anything he wants for free?”

Brown is fighting accusations he sent text messages to an ex-girlfriend who was staying with another man at his apartment. The man called police, a recording which has prompted the latest legal challenge. Brown was arrested outside the apartment complex and found with two firearms, including a loaded handgun in Brown's pants pocket. Brown admitted to police he'd sent threatening text messages, according to court documents.

Fearing and two colleagues sided with prosecutors and threw out Brown's request to dismiss the case or suppress the recordings at trial. Brown's trial was put on hold in June 2013 to give the appellate court time to reach a decision. He is not in custody, according to jail records.

Sacred Heart nurses lose state appeals court ruling over overtime rule

The Washington Court of Appeals has ruled Providence Sacred Heart registered nurses are not entitled to overtime pay when their duties prevent them from taking their contract-provided two 15-minute daily breaks.

The ruling, issued Thursday by the court's Division III, overturned a Spokane court's ruling that the nurses were entitled to time-and-one-half wages for the break time not taken.

The dispute goes back to 2004. After a grievance was filed by the nurses' union, Providence Sacred Heart agreed and created a time-management system that provided an additional quarter-hour of salary for every skipped work break.

Then the nurses argued that they were owed overtime for the missed breaks, not just straight time for the 15 minutes.

A Spokane Superior Court judge ruled in their favor and ordered Providence Sacred Heart to pay more than $327,000 in damages, lost wages and legal costs.

The hospital appealed the ruling. Thursday's ruling agreed with the hospital  and said the break times not taken fell within the normal 40-hour work week, and the missed breaks did not require the nurses to exceed a normal work week.

It also noted that the hospital was compensating each nurse, for missed work breaks, according to the  systems the two sides had agreed to.

Appellate Judge Steven Brown, however, wrote a dissenting opinion. He agreed with the Superior Court ruling in favor of the nurses; he did however say he didn't agree with its award of double damages to the nurses.

Bear parts buy deemed lesser offense

In the case of one Spokane man, the bear parts do not make up the sum of a felony.

Appellate judges on Tuesday overturned the felony wildlife trafficking conviction of 52-year-old Jason M. Yon, after he paid $800 for four bear gallbladders in 2008 to undercover Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife officers.

Yon’s attorney, Richard Lee, successfully argued that his client should not have been convicted of a felony because state law sets a dollar figure of $250 per purchase of parts from big game animals. Yon bought two gallbladders in September and another two in October 2008 for $200 each.

Read the rest of Tom Clouse's story here.

Shellye Stark’s convictions overturned

The murder conviction against a Spokane woman who claimed she killed her husband in self defense after years of forced prostitution has been thrown out by a state appeals court.

In a 3-0 ruling, the appellate court’s 3rd division ordered a new trial for Shellye L. Stark, who is serving a 51-year prison sentence for the Dec. 9, 2007, shooting death of Dale R. Stark at 1620 S. Maple on Spokane’s South Hill.

The judges found fault with the trial court’s jury instructions and other legal technicalities.

Read my full story here.

Click here for past coverage. (I covered every day of the trial.)