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Name: Waddington v. Sarausad
Case #: 07-772
Court: US Supreme Court
District USSup
Opinion Date: 01/21/2009
Subsequent History: 129 S.Ct. 823; 172 L.Ed.2d 532

Jury instructions regarding accomplice liability were not ambiguous. The U.S. Supreme Court reversed the Ninth Circuit’s grant of a habeas petition where Sarausad had been tried as an accomplice to a murder for driving a car from which a drive-by shooting occurred. The prosecutor argued Sarausad’s knowledge of the shooting, and said that he was “in for a dime, in for a dollar.” The jury received standard Washington accomplice liability instructions. The Ninth Circuit granted Sarausad’s habeas petition, holding that the jury instructions were ambiguous and relieved the State of its burden to prove every element beyond a reasonable doubt. The Supreme Court reversed the Ninth Circuit’s ruling. The prosecutor consistently argued that Sarausad was guilty as an accomplice because he acted with knowledge that he was facilitating a drive-by shooting. The evidence supporting that theory was sufficient to convict him under Washington law. It was not objectively unreasonable for the state courts to conclude that the jury convicted Sarausad because it believed that he, unlike his codefendant, had knowledge of more than a fight. The Ninth Circuit’s contrary reasoning was unconvincing.