State v. Finch

In State v. Finch, 137 Wn.2d 792, 842, 975 P.2d 967, cert. denied, 528 U.S. 922, 120 S. Ct. 285, 145 L. Ed. 2d 239 (1999) Finch was shackled during the entire trial and special sentencing proceeding, and was further restrained during certain witness testimony by use of handcuffs. Finch, 137 Wn.2d at 850. The trial court's reasoning was based on Finch's large size and threatening remarks he had made with respect to certain witnesses--witnesses during whose testimony he was further restrained by handcuffs. 137 Wn.2d at 850-52. Contrary to the trial court's reasoning, we thought, was the fact that Finch had no history of violence or escape in custody, and observed courtroom decorum while appearing for many pretrial hearings. 137 Wn.2d at 852. As the trial judge made no finding that Finch was an escape risk, an imminent threat to those in the courtroom, or that he was a disruptive presence, we found his shackling during the trial and sentencing to be an abuse of discretion--a "clear error." 137 Wn.2d at 862. In Finch the Court explained: "A trial judge must exercise discretion in determining the extent to which courtroom security measures are necessary to maintain order and prevent injury. That discretion must be founded upon a factual basis set forth in the record. A broad general policy of imposing physical restraints upon prison inmates charged with new offenses because they may be 'potentially dangerous' is a failure to exercise discretion." Finch, 137 Wn.2d at 846. In Finch it was "'clear that the defendant's movements were restricted,'" and "clearly possible that the jury could have known that the Defendant was restrained." Finch, 137 Wn.2d at 857.