The following is a brief overview of the actions taken by the Skagit County Prosecutor’s Office and City of Mount Vernon Police Department to falsely inculpate and incarcerate Mr. McDonald for the rest of his life, for his alleged burning of a motel room doormat that discolored the neighbor’s door. His claims of malfeasance are fully supported by the records and files of the case. The majority of these facts are contained in his five (5) Appendix Sections (Docket Sheet No.’s 2-6) filed in support of his petition for writ of Habeas Corpus in the United States District Court, Western District of Washington, at Seattle, styled: Steven Darby McDonald v. Douglas Waddington, Case No. 07-00135-JCC. Many of these documents are now included on this website in support of these claims. Including Dr. John DeHaan’s new October 2010 affidavit detailing his missing trial testimony that was removed by Washington State prosecutors Thomas Verge and Eric Pederson concerning the fact that the motel room door was never on fire.
1. February 4, 1996 a crime took place at the West Winds Motel, a downtown motel in the City of Mount Vernon, Washington, where a doormat was burned but not destroyed according to photographs of the scene. Damages were estimated by the Washington State Supreme Court in State v. McDonald, 143 Wn. 2d 506, 508, 22 P.3d 791 (2001), as “discoloring the motel room door”. According to the motel’s manager, Mrs. Patricia Stevens, the damage was non-existent except for having to repaint the base of the door which she decided to do at the end of the winter season. Further, she told investigator Kevin Steward that she was not going to be submitting a loss-restitution statement for damage because “I’ve been taught that honesty is the best policy”.
2. The accused arsonist was 42-year old Steven Darby McDonald, who had no prior arson history, called 911 to report the doormat was on fire and then pulled it from harm’s way so the motel room door would not ignite. Several other people he’d met at Max Dales, a lounge next door to the motel, were partying with Mr. McDonald that evening. These individuals exchanged heated words with his neighbor, Mrs. Edith Clarke, throughout the evening about the noise coming from his room. All fled the scene as soon as they heard sirens from the police and fire trucks approaching, leaving Mr. McDonald home alone to explain what happened.
3. You may think he deserved to receive a polite thank you, but not so in the City of Mount Vernon, where no three-strike arrest or conviction had ever occurred. And apparently they were out to get one!
4. Mr. McDonald was subsequently charged with first and second degree arson, and sentenced to a mandatory life sentence without the possibility of parole. His original prosecutor, Corbin Volluz, was later fired for insubordination in an unrelated matter. And now holds the distinction of being the only prosecutor in the State of Washington to have ever been fired for insubordination.
5. Mr. McDonald’s death by incarceration sentence is the same sentence Terry Nichols received for his participation in murdering over 250 people in the Oklahoma City Bombing; Gary Ridgeway received for murdering over 49 women in the Green River Murders; Robert Yates received for his murdering over a dozen prostitutes; Jeffrey Dahmer received for murdering and consuming the remains of over a dozen young men and boys; and Wayne Williams received for the Atlanta Child Murders.
6. With the advent of real life crime shows which allegedly depict law and justice scenarios like CSI, NCIS, and Law and Order, you may think Mr. McDonald would receive a full panoply of Constitutional rights and would have no difficulties in proving his innocence. But in reality, these shows only create a false sense of reality that such parity exists while showing the accused’s ability to receive a fair trial, usually to the detriment of the victim which then results in some sort of public outrage.
7. The truth of the matter is just the opposite. When imposed, the death by incarceration sentence is not treated as a death sentence and subjected to the enhanced judicial scrutiny as a sentence pronouncement of simple death. Instead, it’s referred to as a sentence of life. This slight of hand has caused mass wholesale death sentences being imposed, without proper safeguards and judicial restraint, with impunity as all federal oversight and related procedural safeguards have been removed.
8. In order for you to receive “equal justice” for your new death sentence of “life”, you would have to first retain private counsel who will properly raise violations of federal Constitutional law that are actionable in federal court. If these issues are not timely raised in the state court system on review, they may be deemed forever waived for the purposes of federal review. This is why the majority of state appointed public defenders will not present these types of issues, leaving a criminal defendant unable to receive review of his federal Constitutional claims in federal court.
9. Because nearly all the people arrested for a crime are not financially able to retain private counsel, they will not receive “equal justice” on review of their appellate errors, as those who are similarly sentenced to death. This is why a disproportionate amount of blacks and Latinos have received this sentencing option of life for relatively minor crimes such as purse-snatching and shoplifting which are easily turned into a robbery by manipulative prosecutors.
10. Nor are the appellate rights to review comparable between a sentence of death and a sentence of death by incarceration. The sentence of death requires the appointment of a defense team and investigator to investigate, research and present appellate issues for review. This includes facts and issues that are outside the records and files of the case. Then the appeal is allowed to proceed without the need of permission all the way to the United States Supreme Court.
11. The death by incarceration sentence is different in two major respects. First, you need to request permission to appeal in federal court. Second, your conviction and sentence is required to be appealed only to the state’s first intermediate appellate court by the state public defender. It is not even required to be presented to the state’s Supreme Court for review. Nor is there any requirement for the appointment to an investigator to collect favorable facts and information to support the defendant’s position in collateral proceedings. In fact, there is no requirement that you even receive the appointment of counsel to file collateral motions for relief, as required by the mechanics of the imposition of the death sentence.
12. This night and day difference in the review process for the exact same sentencing result can hardly be considered “equal justice” under the law. Given the amount of death penalty cases that have been reversed on appeal due to a more thorough review process, individuals being exonerated or receiving full-blown evidentiary hearings with a resulting sentence reduction to life in prison, as an indicator of errors that have occurred in their cases, then literally hundreds of the thousands of death by incarceration cases have been obtained in error.
13. Just because nature has been left to assume the roll of the executioner, the state wants you to believe that this somehow relieves them of their responsibility to ensure that the defendant’s life was justifiably taken, and that his conviction and sentence is legally sound.
14. Unable to obtain private counsel due to being mentally challenged and receiving one-hundred percent psychological disability payments from the Social Security Administration, Mr. McDonald was forced to accept the services of the Skagit County Public Defender’s Office. After discovering they were sharing confidential defense strategies with the prosecution, he filed a 42 USC §1983 civil suit against his public defender, Mr. Gary Gear. A hearing was held September 16, 1996, to remove the public defender. The court denied Mr. McDonald’s request, instead applying the State of Washington’s Whitebread Doctrine of Law. This esoteric concept is instructed behind closed doors at yearly judicial conferences held in Wenatchee, Washington, and applied exclusively to the plebeian usually without the appearance of its application in order to thwart appellate review and public outcry. Except in this case, the court wanted to make a significant impression because Mr. McDonald was standing up for his Constitutional rights and representing himself.
15. During the hearing The Honorable Michael Moynihan explained exactly what rights Mr. McDonald had in the State of Washington, when he gleefully recited this doctrine he’d been instructed to apply by Washington State judicial instructor, Mr. Whitebread, when he refuse to sever the attorney-client relationship or appoint Mr. McDonald an arson investigator to investigate the condition of the motel room door at this critical juncture:
We just finished a great judges’ conference over in Wenatchee, and Mr. Whitebread, if you have ever had the opportunity to hear Mr. Whitebread talk about the Constitution, prisoners now have two rights, the right to go to jail and the right to stay there until their term is up. VRP September 16, 1996 p.16.
16. On appeal Mr. McDonald presented this issue showing the prejudicial nature of the Washington State Judiciary and the court’s failure to sever this conflict situation. In addition to its failure to appoint an arson investigator to investigate the alleged surface burning to the door. All his pro se issues were ignored by the court, which reversed the conviction based on appellate counsel’s presentation of the conflict of interest claim originally presented by Mr. McDonald.
17. Having lost his ability to have the most critical piece of arson evidence tested in 1996 for surface burning, the motel room door could not be evaluated by an expert until retrial in 2001. This is the only reason for the imposition of the mandatory life sentence. The significance of this becomes even clearer when you consider that the state arson investigator’s report of the incident does not contain any facts or references that the motel room door had ever been on fire. The reason for this is simple. It is because it never was on fire.
18. What kind of state arson investigator would omit the most critical fact of the entire investigation from his report if it wasn’t true? Now, Mr. McDonald has no way to refute his trial testimony that the door was “beginning to burn”, but that he had simply forgot to write this fact in his report. This is the insidious effect of the State of Washington’s Whitebread Doctrine of Law: the state is allowed to claim whatever they want occurred during the offense and then they make sure you are left with no way to refute it. The state repeated this process time and time again throughout the history of the case.
19. Further proof of the Whitebread Doctrine’s application and continued practice by the prosecutors and the police took place during the August 29, 2001 pretrial hearing to suppress the state’s alleged gasoline evidence that never existed, but they needed to claim did to obtain the conviction. So they simply claimed it had “evaporated,” and only Officer Peter Lindberg and Detective Tobin Ruxton had detected its presence by smell.
20. During the hearing the prosecutor claimed that Officer Linberg and Detective Ruxton did not know that the items they were personally collecting were impregnated with gasoline vapors so there was no reason for them to allow the on-scene fire experts to collect and package Mr. McDonald’s clothing items and items in his room. Mr. McDonald asserted that this evidence constituted material exculpatory evidence which required that the police officers properly collect, package and preserve it, if they wished to use it at trial. And because they failed to do so, claiming it had “evaporated”, it could not be used since Mr. McDonald would have no way to determine if it had ever contained the odor of gasoline vapors. See United States v. Ramirez-Lopez, 315 F.3d 1143, 1165 n.6 (9th Cir. 2003); United States v. Booth, 309 F. 3d 566, 574 (9th Cir. 2001) (Evidence whose exculpatory value is apparent before its destruction is material exculpatory evidence.)
21. The Honorable Susan Cook now applied the State of Washington’s Whitebread Doctrine of Law when she denied his motion agreeing with the prosecution that the police officers “didn’t actually know what it had on it at the time” they were handling it. This clear-cut application of the Whitebread Doctrine ignores the police officers very own police reports and arrest affidavits which all claim that the items confiscated from Steve “were impregnated with the odor of gasoline”. Six of their police reports state such, while no other on-scene police officer or fire expert reports of the incident claim the detection of any gasoline inside Steve’s hotel room or on his person. The reason for this becomes clear as the case progresses.
22. Other facts exist that conclusively support Steve’s claims that no gasoline residue or vapors were ever on any of his personal items, on him or inside his room, and support his claims that he was set up by two unscrupulous police officers who were trying to clear their names from numerous citizens’ complaints of malfeasance and claims of misconduct by their superiors.
23. August 29, 2001; September 19, 2001; October 3, 2001; and October 4, 2001 hearings were held on Mr. McDonald’s request for the City of Mount Vernon Police Department’s Policy and Procedural Protocols, in six select areas for use as impeachment evidence against Officer Lindberg and Detective Ruxton. This information was sought to establish their failure to follow the proper protocols in order to falsely accuse Steve in the commission of the offense.
24. The areas requested were as follows: (1) the facts required when drafting a search warrant; (2) how to interrogate a suspect that you feel is mentally unstable; (3) what the proper length of time is in waiting to compile a photomontage to show the witnesses; (4) what to do when a suspect requests to provide a tape recorded statement; (5) what you should allow a crime scene expert to collect at the site of a crime if you have no experience in this type of evidence; (6) what you should do if you are informed that another person has committed the offense. The trial court judge, Susan Cook, summed up Mr. McDonald’s argument and need for this information as follows:
THE COURT: Given that’s his defense, isn’t it going to be arguably helpful to his cause to be able to establish that those investigating officers exceeded their own written policy manuals in some way in the investigation, isn’t that consistent with his defense?
MR. PEDERSON: If that is his choice of selected defenses, yes, I have to acknowledge that.
THE COURT: It would tend to support his position if the officers in question did something that flies in the face of their own policy manual. It would seem to support his defense anyway.
MR. PEDERSON: Yes.
25. Both Chief of Police Barsness and prosecutor Pederson stated on record that after reviewing the manual, that it did contain several sections that were similar to what Steve had requested. Yet October 4, 2001 the court denied his request even though no privilege or statutory exceptions existed prohibiting the accessing of these records. Judge Cook claimed she reviewed the manual and found nothing relevant to the areas of interest.
26. October 22, 2001 Mr. McDonald also filed formal Public Disclosure Requests for this information under RCW 42.56 et. seq., that Skagit County refused to answer. This entire issue was briefed by Mr. McDonald in his pro se supplemental brief, p. 48-61, and denied after the court refused to release this information claiming there was nothing of interest. Both courts completely ignored what the Chief of Police Department as well as the prosecuting attorney said during the hearing, that several of these areas contained the requested information.
27. Later under the auspices of the State of Washington’s Whitebread Doctrine of Law, the Skagit County Commissioners enacted a special regulation to prohibit Mr. McDonald from ever gaining access to this vital exculpatory information, and protect the judge’s findings that this material does not exist. If it really did not exist, then why would they have to enact this new regulation to prohibit access to the manual’s Index of Topics?
28. October 28, 2001 Mr. McDonald moved for the release of Officer Lindberg and Detective Ruxton’s internal affairs files listing complaints of malfeasance and creative writing techniques by their inventing of false facts in their police reports involving other people they had arrested. Mr. McDonald’s police reports and arrest affidavits were replete with false incriminating facts, that even the state witnesses denied making against Mr. McDonald. During this hearing the court denied the request, despite reviewing half a dozen false inculpatory statements admittedly not made by the factual witnesses when she ruled that this material would “not be material” to his defense. During the January 24, 2002 hearing she prohibited any cross-examination of either officer if they had ever written false facts in their reports, forever foreclosing Mr. McDonald from proving that his case was not an isolated incident and both these police officers had consistently engaged in these types of illegal practices.
29. In addition to the normal discovery process established under CrR 4.7, Mr. McDonald also moved for this information under RCW 42.56 et. seq., the Public Records Act, for which Skagit County failed to respond. While on appeal, appellate counsel, Sheryl Gordon McCloud, also filed formal discovery requests under this section for this information. Again, Skagit County failed to respond. Later they claimed that they “had no idea” what happened to her requests. She in turn wrote a detailed letter to Mr. McDonald explaining his options and this issue could not be proved without this information.
30. Initially in 1996, Mr. McDonald was offered several plea deals. The first one relayed to him by his then public defender, Douglas Hiatt, was for 14 months. Later it was increased to 89 months then to 10 years, and when the clothing items all returned with a negative result from the crime laboratory for the presence of gasoline residue, back to 89 months. All were refused by Mr. McDonald, who was incensed he was even being charged since he had called 911 to report the doormat fire and dragged the doormat away from the door so it could not catch fire.
31. During retrial in 2001, the state claimed Mr. McDonald had been driven to a gas station by Skagit County undercover drug task force informant Barry Leo Campbell, where he purchased gasoline and returned to his motel room, poured it on his neighbor’s doormat and lit it. The problem with this story is that both gas station attendants, Lester McFarland and Richard Thuran, viewed his photograph and neither identified him. Nor did either identify informant Campbell as being the cab driver who allegedly brought the perpetrator to the gas station to purchase the gasoline.
32. Because his case was becoming weaker, Detective Ruxton deliberately waited 6 and 7 months to ensure misidentification before showing Mr. McDonald’s photograph to informant Campbell and his friend, Gerold Hackley, who claimed to have had Steve in his cab for a “two minute ride across the street”, which he later forgot to call in to dispatch as did informant Campbell who allegedly took him to the gas station to purchase the gasoline. Both their physical descriptions of the person they had in their cab did not match Steve nor did their clothing descriptions.
33. Both these state witnesses’ initial description of the person they claimed was in their cabs was “a kid, in his early 20’s with blond or brown hair to his collar, scruffily dressed with facial hair”. Informant Campbell picked “for sure #3” from the photomontage. Mr. McDonald was #5. Several days later, Mr. Hackley picked #5, but couldn’t remember if he had a conversation with informant Campbell about Mr. McDonald being #5.
34. Detective Ruxton ignored Steve’s accurate description which he himself wrote in his Search Report and related police reports as being “42 years old, military flat top, neatly dressed with no facial hair”. This was also the same description provided of him by cab driver Dorothy Evans who originally had Steve in her cab. When questioned about these discrepancies Detective Ruxton characterized them as mere “nuisances”.
35. Many other “nuisances” existed that showed his innocence and were ignored by both Officer Lindberg and Detective Ruxton, or were outright suppressed by Skagit County Prosecutors Corbin Volluz, Eric Pederson and Thomas Verge, in their rush to falsely convict and sentence Steve to a mandatory life sentence for doormat burning. Especially after he filed his second 42 USC §1983 civil suit against Skagit County, its prosecutors and police department for false arrest and malicious prosecution in 1999 after his conviction was reversed on appeal. See Steven Darby McDonald v. David Needy, et al., Case No. C99-2074-Z, United States District Court, Western District of Washington, at Seattle.
36. One of the most blatant signs of innocence was when gas station attendant Lester McFarland informed these officers that the person he saw twice under bright quartz lighting face-to-face for 10 to 15 minutes from several feet away when he was selling him the gasoline, had “cut and bleeding knuckles”. When Steve was arrested one hour later and his hands swabbed by Officer Lindberg looking for petroleum hydrocarbon residue, he had “no injuries on either of your hands” according to Officer Lindberg’s trial testimony. Yet the implications of this fact seems to have eluded both officers, further supporting Mr. McDonald’s theory that he was being set up for this crime so that both these officers could become Skagit County’s first officers to make a three-strike case and both officers had a history of wrongdoing.
37. First to arrive on the scene in response to Steve’s call to 911 to report the fire was Mark Malone, the arson investigator for the Mount Vernon Police Department, and Dennis Hofstead, the Fire Chief. They immediately interviewed Steve about the fire and requested his permission to enter his room and search for collateral fires. Without hesitation he agreed and both entered his room to conduct their search. Neither detected the odor of gasoline inside his room, on any item, or on Steve while they were interviewing him.
38. Arson Investigator Malone also interviewed Mrs. Clarke, whose doormat had burned, and she never told him that her door had been on fire. Nor is this fact in his official report of the incident. In fact, there is no mention anywhere in his arson report that after he examined the motel room door, it had been on fire! He claimed he forgot to include it.
39. Several minutes later Officer Peter Lindberg arrived and Mrs. Clarke ran up to him and demanded that he “arrest that asshole in room 120; he has kept me awake all night”. Strangely enough, she had not claimed Steve had lit her door on fire, but only complained about the noise.
40. Officer Lindberg requested identification from Mr. McDonald and called it in for a background check, learning that he had two prior felonies which would qualify him as a three-strike candidate. He then returned to Steve’s room and demanded that both fire experts stop their investigation of his room, and sent them on superficial errands not in accordance with their official job descriptions. At trial he explained his rationale for this was because Steve’s room was “a crime scene and I didn’t want them to contaminate it”. According to their trial testimony, they were first responders trained not to contaminate a crime scene but to investigate it methodically.
41. None of which Officer Lindberg wanted to happen so he could come to court and say that only he had detected the presence of gasoline vapors inside Steve’s room, and there would be no expert investigation of his room and its contents inside to dispute his “findings”. Later he would claim that he had absolutely no arson training whatsoever, including in collecting arson evidence, yet felt it best to go it alone.
42. He next demanded that Steve turn around and cuff up because “you are being arrested for first degree arson. You and your entire room smell like gasoline”. As stated, at trial he claimed to have no arson training in his 13 years of being a police officer, this included collecting and packaging of arson evidence. Yet knowing this he claimed he failed to notify either on-scene fire expert that he had detected the odor of gasoline vapors inside Steve’s room and on his person, so they could verify his suspicions, investigate its origins, collect samples and properly package this critical evidence because he “made a mistake”.
43. Because he neglected to notify either on-scene fire expert of his alleged discovery, he knew Steve would have no way to refute his trial testimony that only he had detected the presence of gasoline vapors. He was not going to properly collect this vital evidence so its authenticity could be established and verified by experts. Later his partner, Detective Tobin Ruxton, would adopt this same strategy.
44. While both fire experts were still present and now prohibited from going inside Steve’s room to properly investigate and perform their jobs because Officer Lindberg, and later Detective Ruxton, told them both not to, Detective Ruxton now entered Steve’s room by himself and collected his parka and related clothing items and a bucket Steve was filling with water to extinguish the fire. At trial he too now claimed these items were impregnated with gasoline that had later “evaporated” because he failed to correctly package it.
45. Detective Ruxton as well failed to notify either on-scene fire expert of his alleged discovery so they could verify his suspicions, perform analysis, collect and properly package this critical arson evidence in sealed containers to properly preserve it for trial and laboratory analysis.
46. At trial both claimed to have had absolutely no arson evidence collection or investigation experience, yet claimed to have “over 2000 hours of specialty police training too numerous to mention”. Gee, one would thing with all this training it may have dawned on them to ask an expert for their assistance or opinion, especially since they were admittedly not trained to do this type of specialty police work. Yet they didn’t. And the reason they didn’t is that they were setting Mr. McDonald up for this “crime”. They told the jury that they had by accident incorrectly packaged all this critical evidence which in turn allowed it to evaporate. But before they did it they smelled gasoline vapors. They even claimed they had no idea how to investigate an arson crime scene. And unbelievably, the jury bought it.
47. A claim that Mr. McDonald would have no way in the world to refute because proper laboratory analysis could not be performed and on-scene fire experts were deliberately prohibited from doing their jobs.
48. To further ensure the believability of their evaporation theory, Detective Ruxton deliberately waited over two months before sending this critical time-sensitive evidence to the crime laboratory for analysis. When questioned why he chose this course of action he replied, “I have no explanation.”
49. Despite the utter absurdity of these officers’ responses during trial and actions at the scene of the crime, both admitted to watching Arson Investigator Mark Malone on-scene collecting and packaging his arson evidence in sealed containers. Then both testified that they never thought to ask him why. Seems as if their alleged “2000 hours of specialty police training too numerous to mention” could have been put to better use.
50. Steve’s father had been a City of Miami Police Officer for 34 years, retiring as a Lieutenant, and told him never to speak to the police without the conversation being recorded. At the scene and at the police station Steve repeatedly requested to provide a tape-recorded statement of the events that transpired that night. He told both officers that Tommy, who had been partying with him and several other people in his room that night, had lit Mrs. Clarke’s doormat on fire. Both Officer Lindberg and Detective Ruxton refused to take a tape-recorded statement, making up all kinds of excuses not to do so such as “it would allow you to control the interview process”, etc. Both then came to court and concocted false facts that Mr. McDonald had not told either of them concerning the commission of the offense. Other police officers were present and overheard Steve requesting to provide a tape-recorded statement to both officers, so they had to admit that he requested to provide a tape-recorded statement of the incident.
51. Again, Mr. McDonald was left with no way to refute their false trial testimony that he’d never told either Tommy lit the doormat on fire and left when he heard the sirens from the approaching fire truck. The only indication that he told these officers that Tommy was involved appears on Arson Investigator Malone’s official report of the incident, where there is a second suspect mentioned as being involved. However, Malone claimed that the “computer generated that information by itself. I don’t know what it means.”
52. During retrial Mr. McDonald was again forced to represent himself because the only attorney the court would appoint was the original conflict attorney, Gary Gear, who the court wanted to control the proceedings. His conviction had just been reversed due to Mr. Gear’s appointment which resulted in a conflict of interest. Mr. Gear even wrote the court advising that he refused to accept the appointment. His letter was read into the court record. The new trial judge ignored his letter and continued to force his appointment, which was refused by Mr. McDonald because of “what he said in his letter”. Mr. McDonald’s request for different counsel was then denied, and he was forced to represent himself.
53. Mr. Gear did inform the court that no attorneys could be located in any of the surrounding three counties to accept its appointment and represent Steve. It was obvious that it was known throughout the legal community exactly what Skagit County was up to and they wanted no part of it.
54. Skagit County’s top two prosecutors, Thomas Verge of the Trial Court Division, who is now a Court Commissioner in Bellingham, Washington, and Eric Pederson, Chief of the Appellate Division, squared off against pro se McDonald. They together did everything imaginable to stop the jury from learning what really occurred, and the wrongful actions undertaken by the police to falsely inculpate Mr. McDonald including the suppression of favorable evidence and even pages of state witness Dorothy Evans Sworn Police Statement which had been renumbered to omit favorable information.
55. They started off trying to block the jury from seeing Trial Exhibit No. 45, which was a 9x12 color photograph of the motel room door taken after the black rubbery soot from the burning rubber doormat had been wiped off by the motel’s manager, Mrs. Patricia Stevens. This photograph, taken the following day and before any sanding took place months later, clearly shows the surface of the door never burned.
56. On retrial Mr. McDonald secured the services of internationally renowned arson expert, John D. DeHaan, PhD., FABC, CFI, FSSDip. Again, both prosecutors moved to block his future trial testimony that only the paint blistered at the base of the door from the heat generated by the burning doormat, and no surface burning occurred. They had been informed in advance of his trial testimony by summary the court ordered Mr. McDonald provide opposing counsel before trial.
57. The Court denied their request and allowed Dr. DeHaan to testify to these facts. Then, both prosecutors removed this summary and all of Dr. DeHaan’s trial testimony concerning the lack of surface burning to the door from the court transcript to it could not be used on appeal to argue the insufficiency of the evidence and lack of credibility of both state arson expert Mark Malone and alleged victim Edith Clarke who claimed that “half her door was on fire.” When the photograph clearly shows the existence of a 9x12 spot of blistered paint at the base of the door.
58. Mr. McDonald sent the trial transcripts to Dr. DeHaan in California pointing out that his trial testimony had been removed from the record. He provided an affidavit attesting that his testimony on this subject was no longer part of the trial record.
59. The above shows the animus directed towards Mr. McDonald and the extent that the Skagit County prosecutors would go in order not to lose the case and be exposed for wrongdoing. When Skagit County prosecutors Thomas Verge and Eric Pederson removed this vital piece of exculpatory testimony attesting the motel room door had never been on fire, (Mark Malone’s arson report also fails to state that the motel room door had been on fire, because he claimed he “forgot” to include it) it prohibited Steve from arguing on appeal that the state witness’s trial testimony of fire damage to the surface of the door was not credible.
60. Mr. McDonald next attempted to obtain color copies of Trial Exhibit No. 45 to send Dr. DeHaan so he could prepare a legally sufficient affidavit attesting again that the door had not been on fire based on specific reference points contained within the wood grains and surface veneer. In response to Mr. McDonald’s certified letters requesting to purchase copies of this public record, both prosecutors Thomas Verge and Eric Pederson told the Skagit County Clerk not to release color copies of this public record to Mr. McDonald, only black and white reproductions which are not clear enough for detailed evaluations.
61. Consequently because of the prosecutors’ actions, Dr. DeHaan was unable to prepare a legally sufficient affidavit reconstructing his missing trial testimony for use in his collateral proceedings involving Steve’s Personal Restraint Petition for state court and Habeas Corpus petition for federal court. His collateral motions were then denied for being legally insufficient as they failed to restate exactly what the missing trial testimony was, because he could not view the photograph to accurately recount it.
62. Other trial highlights centered on the fact that the state’s witnesses lacked credibility. Informant Campbell admitted to shooting heroin in his cab several hours before he allegedly gave Mr. McDonald a ride to the gas station. During the first trial in 1996, Prosecutor Volluz categorically denied that informant Campbell was ever using drugs, and lied to the Washington State Bar Association concerning these facts to respond to complaints filed against him by Mr. McDonald. (viz. 7/3/96; 9/23/96; 7/27/97)
63. Later the same morning he claimed to have given Mr. McDonald a ride to the gas station, he was out breaking into homes and stealing SKS rifles to pawn for drugs, which he too was caught for, yet only charged by Mr. Volluz as misdemeanors, instead of the three-year mandatory felony charges as required by law for thefts of firearms which would have equaled a total of nine years of mandatory incarceration. When Mr. Volluz was questioned about this he feigned disbelief, and claimed he could not remember any of it. Trial Judge Susan Cook then prohibited any questioning of him to expose possible favorable treatment he initially provided to informant Campbell for his testimony.
64. Informant Campbell’s ex-wife, Bank of America Vice President Sharon Prouty-Hall, testified under oath concerning her husband’s credibility, that he had none, that he was a thief who stole from her and used drugs in front of his daughter, and also that he was a drug addict who would say or do anything to avoid going to jail. Finally his reputation in the community was poor. Yet prejudicial trial judge Susan Cook refused to allow the jury learn these vital facts in order to sanitize informant Campbell’s image before them. Especially his wife’s statements that he would do or say anything to get himself out of trouble.
65. Other facts that led to the conclusion informant Campbell was anything but credible and was receiving favorable treatment by the prosecution, is found by the fact that prosecutor Volluz personally authorized by his signature the return of Campbell’s forfeited bond monies after the informant jumped bond, in the amount of $2000. Just two days later informant Campbell provided the prosecution with two new full legal pages of inculpatory facts concerning Mr. McDonald’s alleged involvement in the commission of the crime: all of which was contrary to his initial 12-line Sworn Police Statement that concluded by saying, “that’s all I know”.
66. During retrial Mr. McDonald also discovered informant Campbell had been working undercover with several local police departments, including the Washington State Patrol, all of which the prejudicial trial judge Susan Cook refused to allow any investigation into by cross-examination. Despite the fact that several of these organizations were paying his fines and restitutions in related cases and were having his probation removed for collateral crimes he’s been involved in like purse snatching and ID theft.
67. Other outstanding facts discovered by Mr. McDonald, (this is why the court tried to force the appointment of Gary Gear because he would not have discovered these facts and they would remain forever suppressed) was that informant Campbell admitted to having been arrested by Officer Chad Clark close to the time of Steve’s original trial in September of 1996. Officer Clark admitted to having arrested informant Campbell during this time period and booking him into the Skagit County Jail on outstanding warrants and additionally charging him with a crack pipe.
68. After conducting an extensive records search of the jail’s computer system and the Washington SID database, Officer Clark told Mr. McDonald’s new investigator that he could no longer find any information on the warrants that he arrested informant Campbell on. And all the new charges and facts of his arrest of informant Campbell and booking him into the Skagit County Jail in September of 1996, had been erased from the mail’s computer system. He further stated he felt that the Skagit County Drug Task Force has been responsible, which Mr. Volluz was in charge of in 1996, and wiped informant Campbell’s slate clean to sanitize his image because he had been testifying in cases for the Drug Task Force and providing information in other cases related to state agencies.
69. The trial court judge refused to allow any cross-examination into these critical areas of interest during this witness’s trial testimony, further suppressing the existence of these vital facts and true motivation for informant Campbell’s trial testimony.
70. Alleged “victim” Mrs. Clarke showed her true colors when Steve was proceeding on appeal from his original conviction and she called his classification officer Alurturo Gonzales, and told him to tell Steve that if he would buy her a new van she would change her story and tell the truth about what happened. During retrial Mr. McDonald reminded her of this which she admitted and added that she was not going to change her testimony now because he was “arrogant”.
71. She also testified that her son was in the room when “half her door was on fire”, but did not bother to get out of bed. And in her original Sworn Police Statement she attested that she “heard other people’s voices inside Steve’s room and outside her door,” but now claimed that this was only Mr. McDonald “talking to himself” like her son, who is retarded, does. Despite her asking the motel’s manager Mrs. Stevens how many other people were staying in Mr. McDonald’s room and telling his investigator, Kevin Steward, that she “wasn’t sure to be honest” that she had heard Steve’s voice outside her room that night.
72. When applying the State of Washington’s Whitebread Doctrine of Law, the Washington State Courts ignored some of the most outrageous and egregious attempts by the police to create the appearance of Steve’s guilt by inventing false inculpatory facts. One of these was when Detective Ruxton orchestrated false antagonistic confrontations between Mrs. Clarke and Steve in his February 4, 1996 Sworn Affidavit of Probably Cause. He alleged a “confrontation with Mr. McDonald and Mrs. Clarke occurred at 1:30 a.m. where she became frightened of him at his early morning contact.” According to Mrs. Clarke’s trial testimony, this alleged altercation never took place.
73. Again Detective Ruxton set forth deceptive facts of antagonism in his Sworn Amended Affidavit, now claiming that “a confrontation occurred between Mr. McDonald and Mrs. Clarke at 11 p.m. the evening before, when he confronted her about making noise.” Again Mrs. Clarke attested that no such confrontation took place.
74. Detective Ruxton didn’t stop there in his attempts to falsely inculpate Steve. He next tried to persuade Roy Giles, M.D., to file false criminal charges against Mr. McDonald for theft and wrote false facts in his reports that Dr. Giles had not told him, like Steve had outbursts of anger. Dr. Giles came to court and testified that he was “outraged and shocked” that a police officer would manufacture such lies.
75. At sentencing Mr. McDonald requested a comparability analysis of his out-of-state prior felony conviction under the authority of State v. Ford, 137 Wn. 2d 472, 479, 973 P.3d 452 (1999). The elements of the out-of-state conviction must be identical to the Comparable Washington State offense, to account as a predicate strike. If the elements are not identical, then the court can make a factual comparison In re Pers. Restraint of Lavery, 154 Wn. 2d 249, 111 P.3d 837 (2005). The prosecutor refused to allow the court to do either, stating the “law is the law, and I say they are comparable.” The court had no idea what a comparability analysis was, agreed with the prosecution, and sentenced Mr. McDonald as a persistent offender to a mandatory life term, prohibiting him from setting forth facts showing his Florida robbery conviction was not comparable because there is no element of “immediacy” as required by Washington’s robbery statute. See State v. Gallagher, 24 Wn. App. 819, 604 P.2d 185 (1979).
76. Other acts undertaken by the court to obtain a wrongful criminal conviction was the daily bake-off held between the court and the jury to see which could outdo the other. All Steve’s objections to these exchanges have too been eviscerated from the record of the proceedings.
77. Judge Susan Cook next had her Bailiff, Helga Schink, bake a daily assortment of treats for “her jurors”, including her specialty, Kahlua Cake. She’d tell “her” jurors that if they did not eat all their cake, it would upset Helga because she wanted “her” jurors to weigh 5 lbs more when they left. She continued this dialogue asking her jurors to “please save me some cupcakes”. While she continued to influence the jury through her baking expertise, they obviously began to feel obligated because they started to reciprocate. Juror No. 2 and 14 began baking her (the trial judge) homemade cookies which she graciously accepted, commenting their cookies were “excellent, John”. Now she literally had the jurors eating out of her hand. After all this down-home baking, the jurors obviously felt obligated to serve the main course to the court: Mr. McDonald.
78. It is also obvious that the trial judge knew what she was doing was wrong, but continued to do so in order to curry favor with the jury and obtain a wrongful conviction. This is how they obtain criminal convictions in Skagit County. Through fraud, deceit, trickery and manipulation. Then alter the record to hide these facts. This is the only county in the state that does not tape record their court appearances and trials so they can manipulate the record to their advantage.
79. After reconviction Mr. McDonald was able to secure the services of a private attorney, Sheryl Gordon McCloud. She sent him copies of the trial transcripts so he could prepare his pro se supplemental brief. After review he noted that Dr. DeHaan’s trial testimony was no longer part of the record. He notified counsel who responded by letter dated December 18, 2003 stating that this issue could not be raised on direct appeal, but could be raised on collateral proceedings in conjunction with his pending direct appeal. Dr. DeHaan also called Ms. McCloud and informed her that this trial testimony was no longer part of the record.
80. Mr. McDonald requested that she obtain a color copy of Trial Exhibit No. 45 from the clerk so Dr. DeHaan could reconstruct his missing trial testimony. The clerk from Division One refused to release a color copy of this public document. February 14, 2004 Ms. McCloud filed formal motions attempting to secure a copy so Dr. DeHaan could prepare his affidavit of reconstructed trial testimony. Now the court refused to release a copy of this public document, stating that if Dr. DeHaan wanted to view it that he would have to do so in court chambers in Seattle, Washington, an option that Mr. McDonald could not afford, since it involved having to pay for Dr. DeHaan to fly round-trip from California to Washington, stay overnight and rent a car. All in addition to having to pay for his fee to reconstruct his missing trial testimony.
81. It was now becoming obvious that the court clerks and even the judges were all walking in lockstep to protect Skagit County for what they had done in obtaining this wrongful conviction, all because his federal civil suit had been dismissed without prejudice until the resolution of the criminal case and appeal. Without the review of this photograph the reconstruction of the missing trial testimony could not be accomplished so the only affidavit that Steve could obtain was one where Dr. DeHaan stated that after his review of the trial transcript of his testimony, he could not find any of it concerning what he testified to about the damage to the surface of the door. Exactly what that testimony was, could not be known without viewing the photograph of the motel room door during an evidentiary hearing on the issue, if only the court would order one.
82. Instead, they applied the State of Washington’s Whitebread Doctrine of Law. They held that his affidavit was legally insufficient; even though Steve had admitted that it was and had requested an evidentiary hearing to correct this deficiency. But the court denied his claim holding that it did not appear that any testimony was missing, and even if it was, it didn’t matter.
83. Of course it would have mattered had it been their trial.
84. Dr. DeHaan has testified in over 60 jury trials for either the prosecution or the defense in the United States and the United Kingdom, and has a 42-page curriculum vitae. October of 2010, Steve was finally able to secure the reconstructed trial testimony affidavit from Dr. DeHaan with Trial Exhibit No. 45, a large color photograph of the motel room door showing it had never been on fire. Now you can be the judge and judge for yourself if this removed trial testimony mattered to Steve’s defense and the presentation of this issue on appeal. Do you feel that this prosecution was worth the expense of two full-blown jury trials?
85. Perhaps now you too can see why it mattered so much to both prosecutors Thomas Verge and Eric Pederson that this exculpatory evidence not be compiled, and since it was, it had to be removed. And why they initially went to the extent that they did to try and block its full production during the February 4, 2002 hearing before it was fully developed during trial by Dr. DeHaan.
86. The people responsible for ensuring that justice is served have instead conspired against the rule of law to ensure that these facts remain forever suppressed, with the result that a completely innocent man, who dialed 911 to report the fire and pulled the doormat away from the door so that it could not catch fire, was wrongly convicted and sentenced to a mandatory life sentence based on fraudulent facts and patently illegal actions of those mentioned hereinabove who has now been wrongfully incarcerated for 15 years.
87. Their actions were undertaken to avoid civil liability in a case that should never have been prosecuted as a three-strike offense which is now costing the taxpayers of the State of Washington one hundred and nineteen dollars ($119) a day for Mr. McDonald’s continued cost of incarceration since February of 1996, depending upon what figures issued by the state you believe.
88. This six-hundred thousand dollars to date plus fee is in addition to three major surgeries and all costs associated with providing serial PT scans and CT scans for lung cancer, numerous ultrasound and MRI testing for biliary duct disease, numerous colonoscopies and EGD’s for internal bleeding, and now all costs associated with providing medical care for Advanced End Stage Liver Disease which conservatively estimated is at least in excess of another hundred and fifty thousand dollars ($150,000) A total cost of approximately seven hundred and fifty thousand dollars ($750,000).
89. Quite possibly this seven hundred and fifty thousand dollars ($750,000) could have been better spent. Not to mention the cost for conducting two jury trials with 24 witnesses lasting nearly seven (7) days with expert witnesses fees, all for burning a doormat. See docket sheet, Skagit County Superior Court, Case No. 96-1-00064-6. Eight hundred and sixty-six (866) docket entries were filed in this doormat case to date. And it’s not yet concluded.
90. In fact, many other Washington State three-strike inmates have inconsequential “crimes” like being in the back seat of a car when the two occupants in the front seat ran into a 7-11 and swiped a half-rack of beer which resulted in the mandatory life sentence for the 18-year old who was in the back seat. His cost of incarceration was estimated by the Sentencing Guideline Commission to be one-and-a-half million dollars ($1,500,000).
91. For these reasons I have entitled this review Abuse of Discretion, © 2010 Steven Darby McDonald. Many of the supporting evidentiary exhibits and briefs referred to in this summary are included on this website. All appellate issues were exhausted April 26, 2010, when the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals refused to allow an appeal. Unless there is some sort of decisional change in the law applied retroactively, I will die in prison for burning a doormat that I did not burn. And the real criminals, Thomas Verge and Eric Pederson, will get away scot-free!
92. I need your help in reversing my criminal conviction and in obtaining medical treatment. If you would like to help me in doing so and in exposing the contagion of criminality, please write to me here at:
Steven Darby McDonald #703852/D Unit F-1
Clallam Bay Correctional Center
1830 Eagle Crest Way
Clallam Bay, WA 98326
Or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org Please be sure to include your full name and return address on the upper left-hand corner of the envelope to comply with prison mailing regulations.
93. If I do not reply, you should send your letter by certified mail or through an attorney as legal mail to ensure I receive it. If I still don’t write you a reply, it’s because the WA/DOC did not give me your letter. In which case you can file a complaint with WA/DOC Headquarters in Olympia, call the facility, or pursue it through legal channels.
94. Please email your friends about this injustice and share this information with everyone you know. Email those named within this article and listed in the Contact Information area on this website and demand an explanation. Let them know they have been exposed for what they have done.
95. The sharing or not of information is one of the most powerful weapons ever to exist on our planet. The internet has allowed this power to be put in the hands of the citizens. Please make sure everyone is aware of what is being done to me and to many others as well. Perhaps then someone somewhere will be outraged enough to make a difference. Thank you.
96. Related articles requiring review on this site:
a. John D. DeHaan’s Affidavit with color photograph of motel room door showing it never was on fire. Trial Exhibit #45;
b. Attorney-Client Letters, MQAC Complaints, Medical Records, and Grievances against the WA/DOC updated March 2012;
c. The Truth About Three Strikes, with list of over 130 criminal defendants given plea deals on their strikeable crimes;
d. Current Review of Steven Darby McDonald’s Medical Status;
e. DOH Medical Licensing Histories and Criminal Conviction Data for WA/DOC’s Medical Providers (putative drug addicts, pedophiles and incompetents running the DOC’s Medical Department);
f. What This is Costing You (breakdown of expenditures and losses to the community from Three Strikes legislation).
October 2010 (Updated and Revised February 2015)
ABUSE OF DISCRETION
© 2015 by Steven Darby McDonald
Updated and Revised February 2015