Rep. Graham bill would make violent robberies a ‘strike’ under Washington’s Three Strikes You’re Out law

Graham proposal spurred by the case of Chelsea Harrison of Vancouver whose killer was resentenced and may walk free one day due to previous legislation passed by Democrat lawmakers

Rep. Jenny Graham, R-Spokane, introduced legislation today to make certain violent robberies count as a ‘strike’ under Washington state’s Three Strikes You’re Out law.

“We need to get tougher on criminals and those who seek to terrorize and steal from law-abiding citizens,” said Graham. “This soft-on-crime approach that the other side has adopted the last few years in the Legislature is not working. Public safety is the number one issue our citizens want us to address. We need to send a message to them that we hear them. And we need to send a message to career violent criminals that we will punish them to the maximum extent of the law.”

Graham’s proposal, House Bill 1805, splits the crime of robbery in the second degree into a class A and a class B offense.

Class A robbery in the second degree would be considered a Class A felony and would occur under circumstances not constituting robbery in the first degree and where the “robbery is committed with the threatened use of immediate force, violence, or bodily injury.” This would then count as a strike for the purposes of sentencing under the state’s Three Strikes You’re Out law.

“We need to give prosecutors more tools to sentence individuals who commit violent robbery but whose actions don’t rise to the grave bodily injury or other more serious standards of first-degree robbery,” Graham said. “A robbery can still be violent and the perpetrator can commit terrible acts of violence without causing grave bodily injury. The terror and trauma can be life changing.”

Graham said her bill was spurred by the case of murdered 14-year-old Chelsea Harrison of Vancouver in 2005. Her killer, Roy Russell, beat an initial life sentence before being released and eventually suffocating Chelsea at a duplex he was renting.

Russell was sentenced to life in prison without parole but Democrats in the state Legislature passed a bill in 2019 that removed second-degree robbery from the list of ‘strikes.’ In 2021, Democrat legislators made the change retroactive, which has led to the need for resentencing for Russell, who recently received a 26-year sentence instead of life in prison. With time served, he could be out of prison in nine years.

“My proposal is about justice for Chelsea and her family,” said Graham, whose sister was murdered by the Green River Killer. “The laws we pass in Olympia have consequences. The consequences of laws passed here over the past few years means a brutal murderer, a career violent offender, may be walking our streets one day instead of being locked up for life. This isn’t right. Chelsea and her family deserve better than this. Our citizens deserve better than this.”

Graham’s bill has been referred to the House Community Safety, Justice, and Reentry Committee.

The 105-day 2023 legislative session began Jan. 9.

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Washington State House Republican Communications
houserepublicans.wa.gov