The state Department of Corrections was not responsible for the death of a Tacoma man gunned down by a convicted felon on community supervision, the state Court of Appeals has decided.
A three-judge panel from Division II rejected arguments from the family of James W. Smith that the state did not do enough to monitor Antwane Goolsby, the man later convicted of killing Smith.
The Corrections Department’s responsibility for Goolsby ended “when he absconded from community custody and a warrant was issued for his arrest,” according to an opinion issued Wednesday.
Appellate Judge Rich Melnick wrote the decision, which was signed by judges Linda Lee and Bradley Maxa.
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Goolsby shot Smith, 37, to death in August 2009 after becoming angry with him over a comment the victim might have made about the mother of Goolsby’s children, court records show.
Goolsby later admitted to killing two other people in unrelated incidents and is serving life in prison without the possibility of parole.
Smith’s wife, Joyce Smith, and his children sued the state in 2011, contending Smith would still be alive if the Corrections Department had done a better job of keeping tabs on Goolsby.
He had been released from prison in January 2009 after serving time on a conspiracy to commit robbery conviction. He was ordered to be monitored by the Corrections Department after his release.
He violated the terms of his community custody multiple times, and his probation officer twice recommended he serve jail time as a result, court records show.
He broke all ties with his probation officer in April 2009, records show.
The Smith family’s attorneys called an expert who testified that the Corrections Department should have done more. Had he agency done so, Goolsby likely would not have been on the street or inclined to kill Smith, the family’s attorneys argued.
The appellate panel called that speculation.
“Similarly, DOC’s supervision duties did not encompass a duty to rehabilitate Goolsby or to somehow change his behavior such that he would not commit murder,” Melnick wrote.
“As a result, we hold that there is no causal connection between DOC’s failure to control Goolsby and the fact that he absconded or the fact that he was willing to engage in criminal activity such as murdering James Smith.”