Washington v. Butler (Majority and Concurrence)Annotate this Case
Petitioner Chaz Butler, a Black man, was convicted of assaulting two security officers in separate incidents at two Seattle light rail stations. One of the victims, who appeared to be white, identified Butler as his assailant at trial. The victim had not made an out-of-court identification. Butler asked the trial court to instruct the jury according to the pattern jury instruction on eyewitness identifications, which included optional bracketed language that the jury may consider “[t]he witness’s familiarity or lack of familiarity with people of the [perceived] race or ethnicity of the perpetrator of the act.” The trial court agreed to give the pattern jury instruction, but—finding no evidence in the record regarding either the fallibility of cross-racial identification in general or the witness’s familiarity or lack of familiarity with people of Butler’s race in particular—declined to include that optional language. Butler did not challenge the admissibility of the witness’s identification testimony. On appeal, Butler argued that the trial court denied his right to present a defense by failing to give the cross-racial identification portion of the pattern instruction. The Court of Appeals concluded that the trial court did not abuse its discretion because there was insufficient evidence supporting the instruction, and it upheld Butler’s conviction. Finding no reversible error, the Washington Supreme Court affirmed.