The Elma woman whose homicide conviction was overturned by the state Supreme Court has pleaded not guilty to a re-filed charge.
Brenda Zillyette, 47, entered her plea for controlled substances homicide for the second time in Grays Harbor Superior Court on Monday.
Zillyette is accused of giving 18-year-old Austin Burrows methadone and Xanax pills, which they crushed into a powder and snorted together hours before Burrows died of an overdose April 1, 2009. She was sentenced to four and a half years in prison for controlled substances homicide and was released earlier this year.
She appealed her conviction on several levels, finally winning a new trial because of a technical detail in her original charging document. Prosecutors failed to specify which drug her charge was based on. Unless they did that, the high court concluded she wasn’t technically accused of a crime.
“The specific identity of a controlled substance is not necessarily an essential element of controlled substances homicide. However, because not all controlled substances can be the basis for controlled substances homicide, some degree of specification ‘is necessary to establish the very illegality of the behavior,’ ” the court concluded.
The court did not take any issue with the facts of the case, in no way clearing Zillyette of wrongdoing.
Only Schedule I, II and III drugs can be the basis of controlled substances homicide, which covers methadone but not Xanax. This time, her new charging documents specify the methadone is the basis for her charge.
Prosecutor Stew Menefee, who retired effective Monday evening, had said Zillyette would likely not be sentenced to any additional prison time if convicted again. “It’s important because she’ll have a homicide on her record as opposed to having a clean record. In other words, she won’t have access to firearms and the court can restrict her access to drugs, whereas if we don’t re-try, she can indicate she’s an innocent person who’s never been convicted,” Menefee said last month. “It’s not a great result, considering the nature of the error the court found, which was a pretty technical ruling, but it’s something we have to go forward with.”
Zillyette is now represented by David Mistachkin, rather than Scott Campbell, who defended her during her first trial and was initially re-appointed to her case.