Wenatchee felon’s case leads high court to consider ‘alternative means’ verdicts

Jose Barboza-Cortes: His Wenatchee theft conviction became the basis of a new Supreme Court decision on how juries weigh their verdicts.

OLYMPIA — A Wenatchee theft case is now the subject of a state Supreme Court decision, which could clarify standards for proving criminal guilt.

A jury convicted Jose Barboza-Cortes on nine criminal charges in 2016. Wenatchee police arrested Barboza after he deposited four stolen checks into his own account. While arresting him at his residence in February 2015, they found a small amount of methamphetamine and a shotgun.

The Supreme Court ruled Thursday that neither identity theft nor unlawful firearm possession are what’s called “alternative means crimes. ” In such cases, individual jurors can decide a defendant’s guilt based on different factors in the crime. The “alternative means” element means that jurors on the same jury need not consider the same aspects of a crime to arrive at a guilty verdict.

The unanimous decision won’t affect Barboza’s three and a half-year prison sentence, but it will help clarify instructions given to future juries in similar cases. It also led Justice Steven Gonzalez to say that when it comes to alternative means crimes, “Our current system is unworkable and results in the vacation of fair convictions after fair trials.”