The Island County Prosecutor’s Office had another victory this month in an effort to keep a child killer behind bars.
The Washington Supreme Court denied James Alexander’s final state appeal, though now he can move on to the federal Supreme Court.
The case has a long and convoluted history. Alexander, an Oak Harbor resident and Navy sailor, beat his 21-month-old son Bryan to death and seriously injured his 3-year-old stepson in 1991.
Alexander was convicted of felony murder and assault; he was sentenced to 25 years in prison.
Then in 2002, the state Supreme Court reversed 30 years of established law that allowed prosecutors to charge felony murder based on an underlying felony assault.
Island County Prosecutor’s Office retried Alexander on a more-serious charge of homicide by abuse. A jury found Alexander guilty and the judge sentenced him to just over 33 years in prison.
Alexander and other re-tried defendants appealed. Island County Prosecutor Greg Banks was chosen among several prosecutors to argue five consolidated cases from King, Pierce, Clark and Island counties.
The Supreme Court, in an 8-1 watershed decision, sided with prosecutors and upheld the convictions.
After Alexander lost the appeal, the Federal District Court appointed a team of attorneys to represent him in state and federal “collateral attacks.”
“Like a second round of appeals, these cases are lawsuits against the state prison, claiming that Alexander is being confined unconstitutionally, and demanding his release,” Banks explained.
Alexander argues that his attorney in the second trial was so incompetent that he was denied his constitutional rights. Alexander was represented in both trials by Whidbey attorney Craig Platt.
Banks convinced the Court of Appeals that Platt’s legal assistance was not ineffective. Then Alexander asked the Supreme Court to overturn the Court of Appeals, but a five-judge panel rejected the request in what Banks described as “a terse one-sentence ruling.”
Alexander’s last chance in in federal case, where his attorneys will essentially raises the same claim of lawyer incompetence. The Washington Attorney General's Office represents the state in these federal habeas corpus lawsuits. No hearing dates have been set yet in federal court.