- Associated Press - Wednesday, December 24, 2014

SEATTLE (AP) - The Washington Supreme Court on Wednesday reversed gun convictions and exceptional sentences issued to two people who helped Maurice Clemmons after he gunned down four Lakewood police officers in a coffee shop in 2009.

Clemmons’ aunt, Letrecia Nelson, and friend Eddie Lee Davis were convicted of rendering criminal assistance for helping Clemmons evade capture, as well as possession of a stolen firearm. Davis was sentenced to 10 years and will be eligible for release in November 2016; Nelson got six and was released last year.

Eight of nine justices agreed that it was inappropriate for the trial court to impose exceptional sentences. A smaller majority - five justices - also said the pair was wrongly convicted of possessing a gun Clemmons took from one of the officers.

The justices said that although Clemmons brought the gun into Nelson’s home, there wasn’t sufficient evidence that either Davis or Nelson had control over it. They sent the cases back to Pierce County Superior Court. Davis was expected to receive a new sentencing hearing.

“Davis and Nelson had only passing possession of Clemmons’s firearm,” wrote Justice Debra Stephens. “The evidence shows that Nelson put the gun into a shopping bag on the counter and Davis later handed the bag to Clemmons. Clemmons remained on the premises the entire time and immediately after cleaning his gunshot wounds and changing his shirt demanded his gun.”

Clemmons, a felon from Arkansas, ambushed Sgt. Mark Renninger and officers Greg Richards, Tina Griswald and Ronald Owens as they sat in a coffee shop preparing for their Sunday morning shift on Nov. 29, 2009. After killing the three others, Clemmons was shot as he wrestled with Richards but managed to kill Richards and take his gun.

Clemmons fled in a pickup truck driven by one friend, Dorcus Allen, who is serving a life sentence for his role in the murders. Davis then drove him to Nelson’s home in Auburn, where Clemmons arrived banging on doors and windows and saying he’d been shot. He told Nelson what he had done.

She helped him bandage his wounds as police launched a massive manhunt that ended two nights later, when a lone Seattle patrolman encountered Clemmons on a city street and shot him dead.

In all, six people were eventually charged with helping Clemmons after the shootings, including giving him rides and cellphones and making arrangements for him to flee the state. One of the six was acquitted, and Davis’ brother, Douglas Davis, had his convictions - which were on gun charges, not rendering criminal assistance - reversed last year.

“While there are parts of this opinion that are discouraging to the community, these defendants were held accountable,” said Pierce County Prosecutor Mark Lindquist. “They’ve done their time, and the message was sent. This office is going to aggressively prosecute cop killers and anyone who helps cop killers.”

In reversing the exceptional sentences for Davis and Nelson, the justices said the trial court inappropriately applied an aggravating factor: that the rendering of criminal help to Clemmons “involved a destructive and foreseeable impact on persons other than the victim.”

Eight of the justices said that the “victim: of such criminal assistance is society at large, not any specific person.

Only Stephens would have upheld the exceptional sentences, saying the crime did have a destructive and foreseeable impact on the officers’ families.

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