In re Pers. Restraint of Forcha-Williams (Majority and Dissent)Annotate this Case
Petitioner Derrius Forcha-Williams was convicted by jury of second degree rape for an incident that occurred when he was 16 years old. He was sentenced to an indeterminate sentence with a minimum term of 120 months and a maximum term of life. On collateral review, the Court of Appeals held Forcha-Williams was entitled to resentencing because Washington v. Houston-Sconiers, 391 P.3d 409 (2017), was a significant and material change in the law that applied retroactively to Forcha-Williams’ sentence. In granting the petition for resentencing, the Court of Appeals held that Houston-Sconiers gave judges the discretion to impose a determinate sentence instead of the indeterminate sentence required by the legislature for offenders convicted of second degree rape. Additionally, the Court of Appeals held a petitioner establishes actual and substantial prejudice if they show the sentencing court failed to consider the mitigating qualities of the offender’s youth and/or failed to understand their absolute discretion to impose an exceptional sentence downward. The Washington Supreme Court found the appellate court misinterpreted the case law: (1) Houston-Sconiers gave judges the discretion to impose a sentence below the minimum term in an indeterminate sentence but not the discretion to alter the maximum punishment chosen by the legislature or to impose a determinate sentence in lieu of an indeterminate sentence; and (2) a Houston-Sconiers procedural error by itself did not constitute per se prejudice on collateral review. Because Forcha-Williams failed to show prejudice by a preponderance of the evidence, the Supreme Court dismissed his petition.