Hung jury in murder casehttp://www.wenatcheeworld.com/news/2009/sep/09/hung-jury-in-murder-case/
Wednesday, September 9, 2009
WATERVILLE — The first-degree murder trial of Christopher Martin Owens ended in a mistrial Tuesday after a “hopelessly deadlocked” jury failed to reach a verdict.
Jury members deliberated for 8 1/2 hours and were torn on whether the shooting of Richard Lynn Tyler was justifiable homicide, said foreman Skip Johnson, a Wenatchee orchardist. Four of the 12 jurors felt it was justifiable homicide, he said.
Owens, 25, was charged with first- and second-degree murder after he shot Tyler, his mother’s boyfriend, in her East Wenatchee home Dec. 23, 2008.
“It was a real struggle because of the complexity of the case.” Johnson said. “We had 12 people who weren’t going to let this be a simple cut-and-dry case. We rehashed and rehashed the issues and couldn’t come to an agreement.”
Douglas County Superior Court Judge John Hotchkiss declared a mis-trial after the jury did not reach a verdict. The judge set a new trial date for Oct. 19. Owens will remain in the Chelan County Regional Justice Center.
Bobby Tyler, Richard Tyler’s father, said afterward that he was disappointed there was a hung jury. He said, “I’m just going to be glad when this is all over so my family and my son can have some peace.”
Owens’ mother declined to comment.
The jury listened to closing arguments Tuesday morning after a week-long trial. It began deliberations at 12:30 p.m. Tuesday and ended at 9 p.m.
Eric Biggar, Douglas County deputy prosecuting attorney, said to use justifiable homicide as a defense, Owens must have reasonably believed Tyler intended to kill him or his mother or cause severe pain and suffering. He also said Owens must also have believed that the danger to him or his mother was imminent and that Owens must have employed “reasonable force.”
Biggar said, “The law says you can’t shoot someone for trespassing and I say that is all that was happening that day.”
Owens’ attorney, John Crawley of Seattle, argued that Owens went to his mother’s house that night with a gun because he was afraid of what Tyler might do to his mother.
Crawley said Owens had every reason to believe that he or his mother, Kellie Brown, were in imminent danger because of Tyler’s past actions. He said Tyler’s ex-wife had left messages on Brown’s phone saying Tyler had threatened to kill her and burn down her house, and that Owens had heard those messages.
Owens didn’t like the way Tyler spoke to his mother or how he treated her, Crawley said, adding Owens said he saw how skittish his mother was around Tyler, who was
6 feet 5 inches and 250 pounds, which led Owens to think that Tyler may have been abusive to his mother.
Crawley also pointed out that Brown obtained a restraining order against Tyler, and that Brown asked her son to change the locks to her house on Dec. 22, because she was afraid Tyler would try to get into her house the following day when he planned to come over and pick up some items from her garage.
“It was quite reasonable for him (Owens) to fear for his mother’s life,” he said.
Biggar argued that Owens’ action of bringing a gun to his mother’s on that day was a “gross, fatal overreaction.”
He said (Richard) Tyler was a big man, “but that doesn’t make him a weapon. He came to the house unarmed. He didn’t make any threats. In fact, Mr. Owens testified that there was just complete silence after he entered the home.”
He said Owens “went from ground zero to deadly force” when Tyler entered the home.
Biggar said Tyler “ought not have gone into the house” that night, especially since his father, Bobby Tyler, and sister, Heather McCourt, were both outside in the car and could have grabbed the personal items for him.
“But was that a reason for him to have been shot and to lose his life?” Biggar asked.
Biggar said if Owen was defending his mother, then maybe that would explain the first shot from a shotgun. “But how does he justify the second shot — to the back of the head?” he asked.
Biggar said an expert testified during the trial that the first shot to Tyler’s head would have killed him instantly.
Owens testified that after the first shot Tyler was still advancing up the stairs and that’s why he shot again, Crawley said.
Michele Mihalovich: 665-1188
firstname.lastname@example.orgNote: Cross posted from [wp ridezstormz] Battered Mothers, Child Custody, Abuse and Murder.