Convictions tossed in crash that cost teen his leg

Court ruled officer found methamphetamine on suspect during illegal search

Shaun Johnson during her trial on vehicular assault, April 22, 2015 (KOIN 6 News)
Shaun Johnson during her trial on vehicular assault, April 22, 2015 (KOIN 6 News)

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — The Washington Court of Appeals tossed out the convictions of a woman who crashed her car into a Battle Ground teen, causing him to lose his leg, ruling some evidence presented was obtained illegally.

Shaun Johnson was convicted of vehicular assault and possession of methamphetamine in April 2015. Johnson was sentenced to 3 years in prison and remains in Mission Creek Corrections Center for Women.

A court overturned the convictions on Monday, ruling that police were illegally searching her purse when they found methamphetamine.

Before her arrest, Johnson told the officer on scene she was addicted to meth and had used it 2 days earlier. The court couldn’t determine whether the officer’s unlawful search and discovery of the substance contributed to her admission.

Justin Carey, who lost his leg after being hit by a car while waiting for a bus in Battle Ground last June, was nearly speechless upon learning he will attend the Indy 500 in May, April 27, 2014. (KOIN 6)
Justin Carey lost his leg after being hit by a car while waiting for a bus in Battle Ground. (KOIN)

Johnson argued the trial court “erroneously denied” her motion to suppress the meth evidence. The Court of Appeals agreed.

Jodi Backlund, the attorney representing Johnson, told KOIN 6 News the state could request a review by the Washington Supreme Court. That request must be made within 30 days.

“The Court of Appeals ruled that the officers took it out of her purse without due cause. It made a difference in the outcome of the trial and we think they’re right,” Backlund told KOIN 6 News. “The jury having heard that she had meth in her purse would have been more likely to convict her on the underlying charges of vehicular assault.”

Backlund said Johnson is doing OK but remains heartbroken about the accident. “However the Court of Appeals said that regardless of the results police just can’t go into anyone’s purse for no reason at all. Police must follow the law even if that results in a new trial for someone after a heartbreaking accident.”

What the prosecution says

“We respect the decision of the Court of Appeals,” Clark County Prosecutor Tony Golik told KOIN 6 News. “The Court of Appeals dismissed the possession of controlled substance charge. … We intend to retry the vehicular assault charge.”

The 2013 crash left Justin Carey with extensive injuries. He told the jury in 2015 he had to relearn many things, but said he wasn’t angry about the incident and hoped Johnson would move forward in life.”I’d like her to fix her life and stop using and get help.”

“Our goal is to seek justice in this case. This is an important case to this office and this community,” Golik said.

He said Johnson will be moved from the prison to the Clark County Jail within 30 days after the Court of Appeals issues a mandate. She then will re-appear before a Clark County court to begin the proceedings.

The standard sentence range for vehicular assault, he said, is 12 to 14 months in prison. “The court imposed an exceptional sentence of 3 years in prison based on the facts in this case.”

If she is again convicted of vehicular assault, “it will be again up to the court on whether to impose a standard range sentence or an exceptional sentence above the standard range,” Golik said.

He added that since the appelate court dismissed the drug charge, Johnson’s standard sentencing range would be 6 to 12 months.

“But that decision by the Court of Appeals will not have an effect on the trial court’s ability to sentence above the standard range,” the prosecutor said.

“We plan to re-litigate this case and this is an appropriate use of resources to prosecute this type of case.”


The Washington Court of Appeals Ruling

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