For prosecutors, ‘big wins’ during legislative session
Washington Governor Christine Gregoire singed two bills into law Thursday that were major legislative priorities for local prosecutors, including a bill that will increase the penalty for drunk drivers who kill.
House Bill 2216 increases the standard sentencing range for vehicular homicide to bring it more in line with manslaughter, an increase that King County Prosecutor Dan Satterberg and Pierce County Prosecutor Mark Lindquist fought vehemently for.
“Now we have a sentence that feels more like justice, and sends the correct message about drunk driving,” said Lindquist, who had tried to push a similar measure in previous sessions. “Unfortunately, it took some high-profile drunk driving fatalities to give this bill the momentum it had.”
Those high-profile cases included the death of popular Google developer Steven Lacey, who was killed by a drunk driver on I-405 near Kirkland in July 2011. Patrick Rexroat, 56, was subsequently convicted of vehicular homicide and reckless driving, and sentenced to the statutory maximum of 48 months in prison.
Judge Sharon Armstrong acknowledged at the time that Rexroat’s sentence did not seem sufficient.
Lindquist was also a key backer of another bill signed into law Thursday, which prevents prosecutors from having to copy and distribute child pornography to the defense during a criminal case.
House Bill 2177 came about after then accused child rapist Weldon Marc Gilbert was allowed to view child pornography in prison. Because 50-year-old Gilbert was acting as his own attorney, a judge could not prevent him from viewing the evidence against him.
“It felt absolutely wrong for us to have to copy this child pornography that the defendant himself created, so that he could view it again, and again, and again.” Lindquist said. “Child pornography will now be treated like drugs and other contraband. The child pornography will remain in the possession of law enforcement and the prosecution and the defense will review it only as necessary to prepare their cases.”
Lindquist said he was “proud” and satisfied with the legislative steps his office and others were able to make during the session.
“In our office, the goal is to make the community safer, and we do that by not only putting away the bad guys, but by also advocating for legislation to improve the criminal justice system,” he said. “These two bills were big wins for our office and, more importantly, for victims, victims’ families, and our community.”