Wassillie v. State

Notice: This opinion is subject to correction before publication in the PACIFIC REPORTER. Readers are requested to bring errors to the attention of the Clerk of the Appellate Courts, 303 K Street, Anchorage, Alaska 99501, phone (907) 264-0608, fax (907) 264-0878, email corrections@akcourts.us. THE SUPREME COURT OF THE STATE OF ALASKA ALVIN E. WASSILLIE, ) ) Supreme Court No. S-16239 Petitioner, ) Court of Appeals No. A-11080 ) v. ) Superior Court No. 3AN-10-01901 CR ) STATE OF ALASKA, ) OPINION ) Respondent. ) No. 7222 – February 16, 2018 ) Petition for Hearing from the Court of Appeals of the State of Alaska, on appeal from the Superior Court of the State of Alaska, Third Judicial District, Anchorage, Michael L. Wolverton, Judge. Appearances: Josie Garton, Assistant Public Defender, and Quinlan Steiner, Public Defender, Anchorage, for Petitioner. Diana L. Wendlandt, Assistant Attorney General, and Jahna Lindemuth, Attorney General, Anchorage, for Respondent. Before: Stowers, Chief Justice, Maassen, Bolger, and Carney, Justices, and Eastaugh, Senior Justice.* [Winfree, Justice, not participating.] MAASSEN, Justice. BOLGER, Justice, with whom STOWERS, Chief Justice, joins, dissenting in part. * Sitting by assignment made under article IV, section 11, of the Alaska Constitution and Alaska Administrative Rule 23(a). I. INTRODUCTION A jury found a criminal defendant guilty of escaping from a halfway house, and the court of appeals affirmed his conviction. We granted a petition for hearing on the issue of whether the conviction should be overturned because of the invalidity of the grand jury’s indictment. The defendant argues that the indictment was based on inadmissible hearsay evidence — an incident report prepared by a staff member at the halfway house, relaying another resident’s description of the defendant’s conduct and introduced to the grand jury through the testimony of an uninvolved supervisor. The State counters that the incident report falls under the business records exception to the hearsay rule, and that even if it is inadmissible hearsay the conviction should not be reversed because any error in the grand jury proceeding was later made harmless by the error-free trial. We hold that the incident report does not fall under the business records exception to the hearsay rule and should have been excluded. Because the evidence was otherwise insufficient to support the grand jury’s decision to indict, the indictment was invalid and the conviction must be reversed. We decline the State’s invitation to overrule our precedent requiring this result. We therefore reverse the court of appeals’ decision affirming the conviction.1 II. FACTS AND PROCEEDINGS A. Facts In early 2010 Alvin Wassillie was serving out the remainder of a felony sentence at the Parkview Center halfway house in Anchorage. On February 19 he left Parkview on a pass to look for a job. Around the time of his return that afternoon a staff 1 We commend both parties’ counsel for the excellence of their briefs and arguments. -2- 7222 member saw someone toss a white bag through an open window into an upstairs room. Other staff members searched the room ...

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