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ISSAQUAH LAW GROUP

Issaquah Law Group: Experienced Counsel; Client Focus

PHILOSOPHY: Formed in 2014, Issaquah Law Group is a law firm with one focus: providing businesses and insurers with high quality legal representation with the responsiveness of a smaller firm. ILG was founded on the principle that strong client relationships are the key to successful legal representation and strong relationships are built upon clear and consistent communication. 

LITIGATION: We work closely with our clients to fully and accurately understand their goals, work collaboratively to formulate specific legal strategies, and execute the agreed plan of action utilizing methods most likely to result in the efficient and effective resolution of the matter. ILG attorneys have a broad base of litigation experience to draw on in all Federal and State courts from on-the-ground investigations to Supreme Court appeals in the areas of personal injury and wrongful death, product liability, commercial general liability, labor & employment, construction litigation, and catastrophic losses due to fire and explosion.

BUSINESS LAW: Rarely is the path from point A to point B a straight line, so our role in a business law practice is to find alternatives, devise workable strategies, and keep your business ideas, goals and objectives moving toward realization. ILG’s business attorneys help clients achieve their goals with respect to business formation, intellectual property, labor and employment, CAN-SPAM, copyright and trademark

COMMUNITY: In addition, the Lawyers at Issaquah Law Group remain active in the legal and civic community. A core commitment of our Issaquah Attorneys is community service. Our attorneys' civic involvement includes the King County Civil Rights Commission; the City of Issaquah Planning Policy Commission; the Northwest Screenwriters Guild, service as a pro tem judge. We live and work in the Pacific Northwest, and we aim to make it a better place.

In addition, through The Amateur Law Professor Blog and LinkedIn postings, we share pertinent opinions and decisions of the Washington State Supreme Court, as well as the pertinent opinions and decisions of the Washington State Courts of Appeal so that our clients can be as update to date on cutting legal issues as we are.

Division III: Insanity Defense Failure Only Prejudicial Error of Counsel If It Would've Worked

State v. West

This is an ineffective assistance case. West here claims that his counsel should have asked the jury to acquit based on insanity. To be fair, in prison, West did exhibit some psychotic peculiarities…well…no, just straight on psychosis:

"He started talking about the coming of Christ." He claimed to be a prophet of God. He boasted that God taught him Hebrew and that God paid Barack Obama $4 million to spring him from prison. West believed Barack Obama would arrive in a limousine to drive him home. West stayed awake for days chanting and declaring himself to be one of the kings of the twelve tribes of Israel. West told other prisoners that Israelis paid $400,000 for his release so they could return him to Israel to serve as one of their kings.

Needless to say, Barack did not sweep in on a Unicorn like some miracle from Valhalla to sweep west away to the magical Kingdom of Oz so that the Wizard could give him a tin-foil hat. They just gave him some antipsychotics. This calmed him enough to work with knives (seriously, they let this guy work with knives…ever…seriously????), though he still claimed he was a prophet of God. West stopped taking his meds, claiming he wasn’t mentally ill, and then went all assaulty on people. Of course, he was then placed on antipsychotics again, and was deemed fir to stand trial.

Oddly enough, this case involves an expert I know quite well, Dr. Kenneth Muscatel. Dr. Muscatel conceded that despite being diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder, that he could understand the nature and quality of his actions, but hedged on whether he understood that at the time of the assaults. Here, regardless of whether the lawyers asked for an insanity acquittal, it wouldn’t have affected the outcome:

To repeat, in order to satisfy the prejudice prong, the defendant must establish that "there is a reasonable probability that, but for counsel's deficient performance, the outcome of the proceedings would have been different." State v. Kyllo, 166 Wn.2d at 862. A reasonable probability is a probability sufficient to undermine confidence in the outcome. Strickland, 466 U.S. at 694; State v. Thomas, 109 Wn.2d at 226 (1987). West argues the outcome would have been different because the trial court likely would have granted a motion to acquit by reason of insanity. We disagree. . . .

A court may grant a defendant's motion to acquit by reason of insanity only if the defendant shows by a preponderance of the evidence that he was insane at the time of the offense with which he is charged. RCW 10.77.080. To establish insanity a defendant must show he was unable to perceive the nature and quality ofthe act with which he is charged or that he was unable to tell right from wrong. RCW 9A.12.010.

Both trial expert witnesses, including Michael West's expert Kenneth Muscatel, testified that they had no doubt West understood the nature and quality ofthe acts with which he was charged. While acknowledging this weakness in his argument, West contends Muscatel opined that he did not understand the wrongfulness of his conduct at the time ofthe assaults. West misreads Muscatel's testimony. Muscatel testified it was difficult to determine whether West understood the wrongfulness of his conduct at the time, because "[West] doesn't remember big chunks of what happened." RP at 418. Muscatel testified that he could not determine whether West understood the wrongfulness of his conduct because West did not remember why he assaulted his cellmates. Muscatel did not testify that West could not understand the wrongfulness of his conduct. More importantly, Michael West accurately conveyed to William Grant his violent behavior and any judge will wonder if West spoke truthfully to Dr. Muscatel when denying knowledge.

The preponderance ofthe evidence shows Michael West knew both the nature and quality of his acts as well as the wrongfulness of his conduct when he assaulted Bolstad and Welch. Based on the account West omitted from his interview with Muscatel, Dr. Grant concluded by a  preponderance ofthe evidence that West knew right from wrong when he attacked Chad Bolstad and Gary Welch.

While the lawyers at Issaquah Legal Services do not currently practice criminal law, we expect to add an Issaquah Attorney practicing in the area soon. In the meantime, please contact us for a referral to other qualified attorneys.

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