Admissibility of Evidence Related to the Circumstances of the Crime

In State v. Rice, No. 85-1-01004-0 (King County Super. Ct. July 21, 1986) the Court held that the State is generally entitled to admit evidence related to "the circumstances of the crime." Rice, 110 Wn.2d at 607. Indeed, in a death penalty case, the "very nature of the crime renders its narration an emotional event." Id. at 606. The Court also held that a defendant's criminal history, both juvenile and adult, is admissible in capital sentencing proceedings. State v. Pirtle, 127 Wn.2d 628, 666-67, 904 P.2d 245 (1995). A broad exclusion of facts germane to the defendant's crime and background would impair the jury's ability to reach an informed decision as to whether the sentence of death should be imposed. "At the penalty phase the jury decides a question the resolution of which turns not only on the facts, but on the jury's moral assessment of those facts as they reflect on whether defendant should be put to death. It is not only appropriate, but necessary, that the jury weigh the sympathetic elements of defendant's background against those that may offend the conscience." Rice, 110 Wn.2d at 608.