WA Supreme Court: When Nolte Wants Cocaine, Nolte Gets Cocaine!
(Nolte wants coke!)
Nolte (not the one pictured) was a bad, bad man. He'd smashed a bottle on a guy's head, giving him brain damage. He pulled a gun from another man, and then stepped in. So when Nolte called up Harvill, wanting cocaine, Harvill was understandably a little afraid. When he said, “You better get me some cocaine,” Harvill was understandably a little afraid.
Now, while the jury may not have determined that this amounted to dress, it was error for the trial court to not give such an instruction.
The trial court denied Harvill's request for a duress instruction on the ground that there was no actual "threat." See RCW 9A.16.060(1)(a) (allowing a duress defense only if the defendant "participated in the crime under compulsion by another who by threat or use of force, created an apprehension . . . ." (emphasis added)). In this context, "threat" means "to communicate, directly or indirectly the intent . . . [t]o cause bodily injury in the future to the person threatened or to any other person." RCW 9A.04.110(27)(a).
. . .
The question comes down to whether the duress statute requires an explicit threat or whether an implicit threat that arises from the circumstances will suffice. At trial and again on appeal, the State emphasized that Nolte never told Harvill to get him drugs "or else," arguing that the absence of this phrase or similar words confirms that no express or implied threat occurred. VRP (Jan. 4, 2007) at 38; Br. of Resp't at 8-9. But, the lack of an "or else" proves only that there was no direct threat. The statutory definition of threat sweeps more broadly. See RCW 9A.04.110(27) (defining "threat" as "to communicate, directly or indirectly the intent . . . [t]o cause bodily injury" (emphasis added)). Determining what counts as an indirect communication of intent to cause physical harm depends on the totality of the circumstances.
Implicit threats count, and are viewed from the reasonable perceptions of the defendant.