Case Summaries

Criminal Law And Procedure

July 2018 State of Washington v. Imokawa

On July 24th, 2018 Mr. Thayer and his co-counsel, Mark Muenster, won Dean Imokawa’s appeal of his 2017 vehicular homicide and assault convictions. The opinion was published by the Court of Appeals because it creates new law protecting our rights to due process.

Mr. Thayer has been arguing for many years that the Washington State pattern jury instructions used in vehicular homicide and vehicular assault cases are unfair because they fail to clearly allocate the burden of proof to the state when the circumstances indicate that the accident may have been caused by something or someone else besides the accused. Recognizing the inadequacy of the pattern instructions, Mr. Thayer created his own jury instruction making it clear that the burden of proof is on the state when something or someone else may have caused the accident. In two prior vehicular homicide trials, Mr. Thayer convinced the trial court judge that his improvised instruction should be given to the jury. Both clients were found not guilty.

In Dean Imokawa’s case, the trial judge refused to give Mr. Thayer’s requested instruction. The Court of Appeals held that the failure to do so violated Mr. Imokawa’s due process right to a fair trial, and reversed his convictions. This means legal precedent now exists that will enable lawyers around the state to effectively argue for Mr. Thayer’s instruction in vehicular homicide and vehicular assault cases.

The Columbian news paper article publicizing this case may be found at: A copy of the published opinion may be seen on Mr. Thayer’s website and Facebook page.

September 2017
In September 2017 Mr. Thayer obtained dismissal of a three-count felony drug case charged in the Cowlitz county Superior Court. Our client had an outstanding warrant on an out-of-state felony charge. He was identified by Longview Police entering a room at a local motel. They obtained a key from the manager and used it to make entry. Although they knocked prior to opening the door, they did not announce office and purpose, or give our client a reasonable opportunity to respond to the door before entering, as required by statute. Police have to follow the law like everyone else. When they don’t, the illegally seized evidence must be suppressed, as an incentive to encourage police to obey the law next time. In this case, 130 grams of heroin, 69 grams of methamphetamine, 4 grams of cocaine, a scale, packaging material, and over $8,900 in cash were excluded. Without that evidence the State had to dismiss their case.

[07/29] US v. Spencer
Defendant’s sentence for two federal drug-trafficking felonies, which included a career offender enhancement, is affirmed, where: 1) defendant’s prior conviction for criminal property damage in the first degree under Hawaii law is categorically a “crime of violence” under the residual clause of section 4B1.2(a)(2) of the Sentencing Guidelines; 2) defendant is thus subject to the career offender enhancement under section 4B1.1 of the Sentencing Guidelines; and 3) defendant’s claim that section 4B1.2(a)(2)’s residual clause is unconstitutionally vague is foreclosed by Supreme Court precedent.

[07/29] Aguilar v. Woodford
The district court’s denial of petitioner’s habeas corpus petition is reversed and remanded, where: 1) the prosecution’s failure to disclose the police dog’s history of making mistaken scent identifications violated Brady v. Maryland; and 2) the California Court of Appeal’s decision to the contrary was an unreasonable application of Brady.

[07/26] Murdaugh v. Ryan
The district court’s denial of defendant’s habeas corpus petition challenging his conviction and capital sentence for murder is: 1) reversed in part, where the district court erred in denying defendant’s claim of error under Ring v. Arizona, which requires a jury determination of the presence or absence of aggravating factors supporting the death penalty, and the Ring error had a substantial and injurious effect or influence on the trial court’s failure to find the mitigating factor regarding defendant’s capacity to appreciate the wrongfulness of his conduct or conform it to the requirements of law, and thus on the trial court’s imposition of a death sentence; and 2) otherwise affirmed.

[07/26] US v. Tetioukhine
Defendant’s convictions for wire fraud, providing false information to obtain federal financial aid, making false statements in an application for a U.S. passport, and aggravated identity theft, arising out of his misappropriation of another man’s identity, are affirmed, where the district court did not abuse its discretion in: 1) excluding defendant’s proposed expert witness in Soviet adoption practices and cultural differences between the former Soviet Union and the United States; and 2) admitting evidence pertaining to defendant’s 1996 larceny conviction.