Washington high court tosses Elma drug homicide conviction

OLYMPIA, Washington (AP) – The State Supreme Court has unanimously thrown out an Elma woman’s conviction for controlled substances homicide due to a defect in the charging papers filed against her.

Brenda Zillyette was charged after investigators in Grays Harbor County discovered she had provided the Xanax and methadone that caused the overdose death of 18-year-old Austin Burrows in 2009. However, in charging papers prosecutors didn’t specify what category of controlled substances or what specific drugs she was accused of providing.

Because only certain drugs can support a charge of controlled substances homicide, the high court found that in effect, the charging papers didn’t necessarily accuse her of committing a crime. For that reason, on Thursday they overturned the trial court that convicted her and the state appeals court panel that upheld the conviction.

The justices dismissed the charge against Zillyette, who learned about it on the news.