Washington Supreme Court rejects bid to return convicted murderer, documentary star to prison

May 23, 2024, 1:06 PM

kimonti carter...

Kimonti Carter appearing in court. (Photo courtesy of KIRO 7)

(Photo courtesy of KIRO 7)

The Washington State Supreme Court rejected an effort to send convicted murderer Kimonti Dennis Carter back to prison on Thursday.

The court, in a 5-3 decision, denied Pierce County Prosecutor’s request to reinstate Carter’s original life sentence. In a dissenting opinion, three justices stated that the court’s decision means “an adult homicide offender could receive a sentence of zero months.”

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Carter was convicted in 1998 for the murder of Corey Pittman during a gang-related shooting. He also received four counts of first-degree assault with firearm enhancements and a charge of unlawful possession of a firearm.

In 2021, the State Supreme Court ruled that life without parole for 18- to 20-year-old offenders is unconstitutional as it does not consider the mitigating qualities of youth. Carter, who became the subject of a documentary, subsequently filed a motion for resentencing, citing his youthfulness at the time of the crime.

The Pierce County Superior Court agreed and resentenced him to 30 years in prison.

During the resentencing, Carter expressed remorse for his actions and their impact on the community and Pittman’s family. Pittman was a college student and president of the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Club at the time of his death.

The documentary “Since I Been Down” highlights Carter’s rehabilitation and his efforts to help others in the justice system. The Supreme Court upheld the Pierce County Court’s decision to resentence Carter to 30 years.

Prosecutors argued that the state legislature had not set sentencing requirements for 18- to 20-year-old offenders convicted of aggravated murder, leaving judges without discretion.

The primary issues before the Supreme Court were whether the superior court had the authority to impose determinate sentences for aggravated first-degree murder and to resentence Carter’s other convictions.

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Justice Raquel Montoya-Lewis, writing for the majority, affirmed the superior court’s authority to resentence Carter and upheld its decision to vacate his original sentence. However, Justice Barbara Madsen, in her dissenting opinion, warned that the majority’s ruling could lead to “an adult homicide offender receiving a sentence of zero months,” conflicting with the statute’s intent to harshly punish homicide offenders.

Carter is now out of prison. House Bill 1325, introduced in January to allow early release for those who committed crimes before 25 and are serving long sentences, failed to advance in committee.

Matt Markovich often covers the state legislature and public policy for KIRO Newsradio. You can read more of Matt’s stories here. Follow him on X, or email him here.

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Washington Supreme Court rejects bid to return convicted murderer, documentary star to prison