OLYMPIA The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals today reversed one of its three-judge panels and ruled 6-5 to reinstate the death sentence of David L. Rice, who killed Seattle attorney Charles Goldmark, his wife and their two children more than a decade ago.
In January of last year, a three-judge panel of the court upheld a lower court ruling setting aside Rice's death sentence because he was not present when the jury returned its sentence. In that lower court case, U.S. District Court Judge Jack Tanner concluded that Rice had not waived his right to be present when the sentence was announced.
At the time of sentencing, Rice had ingested a mixture of tobacco and water and was in a Seattle hospital having his stomach pumped. Rice's attorneys agreed to accept the verdict for their client.
Rice had been present throughout the trial except for when the verdict was received. He also was asked by the judge at sentencing if he had anything to say and he declined.
"We have long been convinced that the court erred in its earlier reversal of Rice's sentence," said Attorney General Christine Gregoire. "Like many Washington residents, I am relieved the larger panel of judges recog nized this. I failed to understand how his absence from the room would impact the final sentence, or compro mise his rights in any way. It was even harder to understand, since the illness which forced him from the room was self-induced."
The ruling today remands certain issues in Rice's appeal to a three-judge panel of the 9th Circuit and, at the same time, orders Judge Tanner to hold an evidentiary hearing on Rice's claim of ineffective assistance of counsel and other claims stemming from his 1986 trial.
Rice was convicted of four counts of first degree aggravated murder in the slayings of the Goldmark family on Christmas Eve 1985. He was found guilty on June 5, 1986, and sentenced to death five days later on June 10.
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Contact:Paul Weisser, AG's Corrections Division (360) 586-1445
Tom Young, AG's Corrections Division (360) 586-1445
Dean R. Owen, AG's Public Affairs Office (360) 586-1883