Washington Supreme Court rejects bid to return convicted murderer, documentary star to prison

May 23, 2024, 1:06 PM

kimonti carter...

Kimonti Carter appearing in court. (Photo courtesy of KIRO 7)

(Photo courtesy of KIRO 7)

The Washington State Supreme Court rejected an effort to send convicted murderer Kimonti Dennis Carter back to prison on Thursday.

The court, in a 5-3 decision, denied Pierce County Prosecutor’s request to reinstate Carter’s original life sentence. In a dissenting opinion, three justices stated that the court’s decision means “an adult homicide offender could receive a sentence of zero months.”

More from WA Supreme Court: State commissioner to decide on high-capacity magazine ban

Carter was convicted in 1998 for the murder of Corey Pittman during a gang-related shooting. He also received four counts of first-degree assault with firearm enhancements and a charge of unlawful possession of a firearm.

In 2021, the State Supreme Court ruled that life without parole for 18- to 20-year-old offenders is unconstitutional as it does not consider the mitigating qualities of youth. Carter, who became the subject of a documentary, subsequently filed a motion for resentencing, citing his youthfulness at the time of the crime.

The Pierce County Superior Court agreed and resentenced him to 30 years in prison.

During the resentencing, Carter expressed remorse for his actions and their impact on the community and Pittman’s family. Pittman was a college student and president of the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Club at the time of his death.

The documentary “Since I Been Down” highlights Carter’s rehabilitation and his efforts to help others in the justice system. The Supreme Court upheld the Pierce County Court’s decision to resentence Carter to 30 years.

Prosecutors argued that the state legislature had not set sentencing requirements for 18- to 20-year-old offenders convicted of aggravated murder, leaving judges without discretion.

The primary issues before the Supreme Court were whether the superior court had the authority to impose determinate sentences for aggravated first-degree murder and to resentence Carter’s other convictions.

More from Matt Markovich: Washington Republicans face internal feud over endorsements ahead of elections

Justice Raquel Montoya-Lewis, writing for the majority, affirmed the superior court’s authority to resentence Carter and upheld its decision to vacate his original sentence. However, Justice Barbara Madsen, in her dissenting opinion, warned that the majority’s ruling could lead to “an adult homicide offender receiving a sentence of zero months,” conflicting with the statute’s intent to harshly punish homicide offenders.

Carter is now out of prison. House Bill 1325, introduced in January to allow early release for those who committed crimes before 25 and are serving long sentences, failed to advance in committee.

Matt Markovich often covers the state legislature and public policy for KIRO Newsradio. You can read more of Matt’s stories here. Follow him on X, or email him here.

MyNorthwest Politics

Image: Seattle Police Department Chief Adrian Diaz is seen in September 2020....

Jason Rantz

Rantz: Chief Adrian Diaz likely out at Seattle Police Department, sources say

Rumors are swirling amongst officers that Seattle Police chief Adrian Diaz is out after the mayor's office grew tired of "drama."

37 minutes ago

Image: Washington Republican gubernatorial candidate Semi Bird speaks at a Veterans Day event at th...

Jason Rantz

Rantz Exclusive: Semi Bird reprimanded for fraud against US Army, after ‘stolen valor’ claims

Gubernatorial candidate Semi Bird committed acts of stolen valor, even admitting to defrauding the U.S. Army.

9 hours ago

delivery drivers seattle...

Frank Sumrall

Will the minimum wage for delivery drivers in Seattle be lowered?

The Seattle City Council is expected to vote on a new ordinance that would repeal the recently-instituted mandatory minimum wage for delivery drivers.

17 hours ago

Image: Hundreds gather at Seattle's Wing Luke Museum to ring in the Lunar New Year in 2023....

Steve Coogan

Wing Luke Museum closes after employees walk out in protest of ‘Hate’ exhibit

About two dozen employees of Seattle's Wing Luke Museum staged a walkout Wednesday to protest an exhibit that was set to begin.

3 days ago

constitutional unlawful detainer...

Matt Markovich

How does Washington fix its eviction case backlog? A constitutional change is needed

King County is struggling with this workload due to a constitutional requirement that unlawful detainer cases must be heard by a constitutional commissioner.

5 days ago

Image: Dave Reichert, left, and Semi Bird are running in 2024 to be Washington's governor....

Matt Markovich

Washington Republicans face internal feud over endorsements ahead of elections

Washington Republicans are in the midst of an experiment, leading to a political family feud over the most "electable" candidates.

6 days ago

Washington Supreme Court rejects bid to return convicted murderer, documentary star to prison