Wassillie v. AlaskaAnnotate this Case
In early 2010 Alvin Wassillie was serving out the remainder of a felony sentence at the Parkview Center halfway house in Anchorage. On February 19 he left Parkview on a pass to look for a job. Around the time of his return that afternoon a staff member saw someone toss a white bag through an open window into an upstairs room. Other staff members searched the room and found a white bag with a bottle of vodka in it. Parkview’s security manager identified Wassillie as the person who threw the bag (and presumably the vodka) into the building. Bringing alcohol into the facility was a violation of its rules, so Wassillie was asked to wait in the lobby while a report was made and the Department of Corrections (DOC) was contacted to take Wassillie back to jail. After waiting several hours in the lobby, Wassillie walked out of the facility. A jury found Wassillie guilty of escaping from a halfway house, and the court of appeals affirmed his conviction. The Alaska Supreme Court granted a petition for hearing on the issue of whether the conviction should be overturned because of the invalidity of the grand jury’s indictment. Wassillie argued that the indictment was based on inadmissible hearsay evidence — an incident report prepared by a staff member at the halfway house, relaying another resident’s description of the defendant’s conduct and introduced to the grand jury through the testimony of an uninvolved supervisor. The State countered that the incident report fell under the business records exception to the hearsay rule, and that even if it was inadmissible hearsay the conviction should not be reversed because any error in the grand jury proceeding was later made harmless by the error-free trial. The Supreme Court held that the incident report did not fall under the business records exception to the hearsay rule and should have been excluded. Because the evidence was otherwise insufficient to support the grand jury’s decision to indict, the indictment was invalid and the conviction had to be reversed.