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Court upholds murder conviction in 2018 Winlock shooting

Court upholds murder conviction in 2018 Winlock shooting

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An appeals court Wednesday rejected an appeal filed by a Winlock man convicted in 2018 of murdering his next-door neighbor and attempting to kill that neighbor’s 16-year-old son.

Randolph Graham, then 59, was sentenced in September 2018 to 66 years and eight months in prison for the shooting, in which he claimed to have acted in self-defense. He was convicted of first-degree murder and attempted murder, among other charges.

Because his sentence was exceptional (outside of the standard range), Graham automatically had grounds to file an appeal, which he did. But the Washington State Court of Appeals upheld his conviction Wednesday and found no fault with Graham’s original trial.

Graham was on poor terms with his neighbors, the Lesters, due to arguments over a shared well, an easement and Graham’s pet rabbits, according to court testimony. In May 2018, Graham drove to the Lesters’ house while Randy Lester was playing basketball with his son. Graham shot Lester multiple times, and prosecutors successfully argued that the additional shots that hit the Lester’s home showed Graham tried to shoot Lester’s son, too.

Graham appealed his convictions on several grounds, each of which the appellate court rejected.

First, Graham argued the trial court gave the jury improper instructions. The appellate court determined Graham failed to object to those instructions during the trial, and regardless, his objection did not show enough of an error for the appellate judges to even be required to address it.

Graham argued the trial court erred in preventing him from representing himself. The trial court denied his request based on concerns over his knowledge of the legal process and the fact that Graham was asking for additional time to learn the law and court rules. The appellate court found Graham’s request wasn’t timely and that the trial court didn’t abuse its discretion in denying him.

Graham also argued that a juror who admitted to talking about the case with a witness shouldn’t have been allowed on the jury. That juror said in court that she quickly ended the conversation with the witness, and that she knew nothing about the case other than that someone had been killed.

The appellate court found “no evidence” that the juror was biased. Graham failed to object to the juror during jury selection, and failed to show the juror was prejudiced against him, the appellate court found.

Graham further argued there was “media manipulation” in the case and “false accusations given to [the] public,” claimed his defense counsel withheld evidence, and took issue with photographic evidence that prosecutors provided of the victim. The appellate court didn’t review those allegations because Graham didn’t provide more information about them.

Graham claimed he wasn’t permitted to have his own forensic professionals, but the court record showed he never requested any. Similarly, he argued he was denied a new legal counsel, but the record showed he never asked for one. So the appellate court dismissed both arguments.

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