When Maurice Clemmons was arrested one year ago, he faced four felony charges. If found guilty, he could have been sentenced to life. He posted bail from Pierce County jail. Less than a week later, he shot and killed four Lakewood police officers before a Seattle Police officer shot and killed him.
A year after his crime spree, Clemmons' actions have changed the Washington State constitution.
In the aftermath of the shootings, state lawmakers wrestled with how to close what they saw as a loophole that put Clemmons back on the streets and allowed him to go on his murder streak.
Their solution, Engrossed Substitute House Joint Resolution 4220, would allow judges in the state to deny bail to people arrested for crimes that could carry a life sentence. However, there would have to be "clear and convincing evidence of a propensity for violence" in order for the judge to deny bail.
The bill passed overwhelmingly in the legislature, and voters approved it by a landslide this month. No group or lobby opposed the constitutional amendment.
But while it had a smooth ride to victory, enacting 4220 won't be as easy. No one knows for sure how judges might use this expanded power, or whether an appeal will keep it off the books.
"It is hard to speculate how the law will be applied," said Robert C. Boruchowitz, a law professor at Seattle University and long-time director of the Defender Association in Seattle. "It could lead to many more people locked up pre-trial. The language in the amendment is vague and it could be that there will be appellate review of its application."
The extent judges will require prosecutors to prove the defendant's propensity for violence is also an open question. In Clemmons' case, for example, prosecutors sought a $190,000 bail, but the judge set bail $40,000 below their request. Could Resolution 4220 have prevented Clemmons' release?
"If the judge does not have enough information to set significant conditions of release under the current rule, the judge will not have enough information to deny bail under the changed procedure," Boruchowitz said. "Whether judges will insist that the government meet its burden and how they determine what qualifies as meeting the burden remains to be seen."