A 27-year-old Richland man immediately was taken into custody Thursday after a Benton County judge refused to throw out his burglary conviction or give him a new trial. Instead, the judge sentenced him to just under two years in prison.
A Superior Court jury convicted Joshua Jordan Graham on Dec. 21, but the verdict form accidentally had another man's name on it.
"A mistake of this magnitude is so startling, it's not in the best interest of justice," defense attorney Gary Metro told Judge Bruce Spanner.
The form in this case has a heading of "State of Washington, plaintiff, vs. Joshua Jordan Graham, defendant," court documents show.
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But below that it reads: "We, the jury, find the defendant Anthony Joseph Speelman, guilty of the crime of Burglary in the Second Degree as charged in Count 1." The error was pointed out after the jury was dismissed.
"The verdict form states what it states. We have found the defendant Anthony Speelman guilty of this crime. Period. That's what the verdict form said," Metro said.
Because Graham wasn't named on the form, Metro said the court doesn't have authority to sentence him.
Deputy Prosecutor Brendan Siefken countered that it was simply a clerical error, and told Spanner that if he just crossed out Speelman's name, it would not change the jury's verdict.
"It would read, 'We, the jury, find the defendant guilty,' " he said.
Siefken said the state is "simply asking to striking the erroneous information on the verdict form ... the defendant's name is still on the verdict form."
He said there was no question that Graham was the defendant in the case, and Graham even took the stand and admitted he was the one seen in the surveillance video shown during the trial.
The only question the defense raised was Graham's intent once he was inside the Atomic Bowl business office Jan. 16, 2011, he said.
Surveillance video showed Graham enter the office at 1:14 a.m. and walk through the room looking through drawers and crouching in front of the office safe. He reportedly left after looking up and seeing the video camera.
Spanner said he extensively researched the issue and found a civil case that said judges can modify a verdict form if there is a clerical error.
Spanner, who presided over the trial but was in Franklin County Superior Court on another matter when the verdict was announced, referred to the transcript from the proceeding.
The clerk read the verdict form correcting the name out loud to say Graham. Then Judge Cameron Mitchell asked the jury foreman if the clerk accurately read the jury's verdict.
"Yes, your honor," the foreman said, according to the transcript. All 12 jurors were then polled to make sure it was their verdict, and they all said yes, Spanner said.
"I can only reach one conclusion, that this is a clerical error," the judge said.
Graham faced a sentencing range of one year and five months to one year and 10 months in prison for the burglary.
Siefken asked for the top sentence, saying Graham has never taken responsibility for his actions.
In the video, Graham is seen using his T-shirt or sweatshirt to cover his hand as he touched things in the office. Graham testified that he did that because he had a problem with germs. He also said he was just looking for the bathroom.
Siefken called that "ridiculous," and said Graham's actions that day and prior convictions of two counts each of residential burglary and second-degree theft supports the maximum term.
Metro said it was clear to him that his client was under the influence of alcohol and wasn't acting consistently with someone who was sober. He said Graham didn't take anything from the office and also noted that it "was not a sophisticated crime."
When it was Graham's turn Thursday, he spoke so quietly it was difficult to hear him as he talked about issues he had with his defense attorney.
"I don't know anyone who opens drawers looking for a toilet," Spanner said. "Then you come here today and it's all your lawyer's fault."
Spanner said it's clear Graham has failed to take responsibility for his actions. He then handed down the maximum sentence of one year and 10 months and told Graham he has 30 days to appeal.
Siefken asked for an $80,000 appeal bond because Graham has two bail jumping convictions, an escape conviction and a bail jumping case pending from when he missed a court hearing last month.
Graham waited a week before turning himself in even though he knew a warrant was issued for his arrest, Siefken said, adding that he believes Graham is a risk to flee.
Metro said he was sure Graham would appeal, and asked the judge to set a reasonable appeal bond of $15,000. He also said his client did show up for the Feb. 24 hearing, but Graham told him he was late because he got held up at the security checkpoint.
"Not his fault that day either?" Judge Spanner asked.
Spanner said he was prepared to set the appeal bond at $30,000 until he heard about the escape and bail jumping convictions. He doubled it to $60,000 and Graham was immediately taken into custody.
He now faces an April 23 trial on the new bail jumping charge.