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Civilly Committed Washington State Prisoner's Arson Conviction Upheld

On October 6, 2009, a Washington State court of appeals upheld a prisoner's arson conviction for setting fire to a blanket in his civil commitment room.

James Moseley, a resident of the McNeil Island Special Commitment Center (MISCC), used matches to set fire to a blanket in his room, apparently in protest of having been moved to a more restrictive confinement. Shortly before he set fire to the blanket, a MISCC employee overheard Moseley threaten to "burn this room down" or words to that effect. A special response team entered Moseley's room and discovered a blanket with burn marks, a burned match in the blanket and other matches. Moseley was charged with attempted first degree arson.

A jury convicted Moseley. Moseley appealed. The court of appeals held that the evidence showed Moseley had taken a substantial step toward causing a fire in a building that was occupied by a human being who was not participating in the crime. Therefore, the evidence was sufficient to support the conviction and the crime was not limited to malicious mischief as Moseley had claimed. Other grounds raised in a statement of additional grounds were overruled and the conviction was affirmed.

See: Washington v. Moseley, No. 38308-0-II, 2009 Wash. App. LEXIS 2567.

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Related legal case

Washington v. Moseley