Court Shows Deference to Defense Strategy

Originally Posted June 24, 2013

State v. Coristine, 300 P.3d 400 (Wash. 2013)

Coristine was charged with rape in the second degree.  His sole defense was that the state failed to prove its case. At the end of the trial, the State added the “reasonable belief” instruction RCW 9A.44.030.  That instruction provides, the defendant must prove by a preponderance of the evidence that the defendant reasonably believed that the victim was not mentally incapacitated and/or physically helpless.

The Washington Supreme Court held that the State violated Coristine’s Sixth Amendment right to autonomy to present a defense when it added the “reasonable belief” instruction because the instruction allowed the state to add an extra burden when their case was less than solid.

Adding an instruction over the defendant’s objection interferes with their defense strategy.  Since the defendant has a right to present a defense, his strategic decisions should be given deference.

Application:

When the State is pursuing a charge they most likely cannot prove, they cannot add a lesser charge over the defense’s objection. 

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