It was dark and cold outside when our client left his friend’s house, where he and his girlfriend had just had an argument.  He wore a big parka with a fur-lined hood that covered his head, and he walked by himself, intending to head to his home for the night.  But he didn’t get far.

That’s because, while the client walked away, and unknown to him, a man followed him from the friend’s house.  This man was a new acquaintance of the client’s girlfriend, and this man was trying to split the client and his girlfriend up, so that the man could begin his own relationship with the girlfriend.

The client and this man had exchanged hostile words on prior occasions.  The man had made threats against the client before.  The man was physically quite large and imposing, while the client was slight.  The man had often boasted to the client and others, that he was proficient in martial arts.  The man even displayed weapons he kept, such as swords and batons.  The client, fearing a confrontation at some point, had purchased a firearm to keep for protection.  The client had that firearm on his person as he walked home that night.

As the client walked along the street, the man spotted him from the driver’s seat of his car.  The man had been driving around, looking for our client.  When he found the client, the man parked his car, got out, armed himself with two bladed or club-type weapons, and hid behind a corner, lying in wait as the client approached the man’s position.

When our client reached the corner, the man jumped out, startling our client, who began to back away.  The man made threats of violence and displayed the weapons he had brought.  Our client tried to avoid a confrontation, but the man refused to back down.  The man, towering over our client, backed him down into the middle of the street, which was empty at the late hour.

When the man then lunged, our client drew his pistol and fired one time at the man, striking him in the chest.  The man staggered back to his car and to his friends, who took him to the hospital with a gunshot wound.  The man later told police a different version of events – that he merely confronted our client in order to talk, and that he had intended no harm to our client.  He also told police that he possessed no weapons during the confrontation.

The police and the prosecutor bought the story of the man, and charged our client with first degree assault with a firearm.  This charge, if he were to be convicted, would have carried a prison sentence of close to 20 years.

The case proceeded to a jury trial.  Through our investigation, we interviewed the man who was shot, friends of both our client and the man shot, as well as our client’s girlfriend.  As a result of this thorough investigation, we proved at trial that the man who had been shot had not been truthful with police about why he confronted our client.  Our client took the stand in his own defense and told the jury exactly what had happened.  After all the evidence came before the jury, we proved that our client was not the instigator of this confrontation, and we convinced the unanimous jury that our client had acted in self-defense in shooting the man.

Under Washington law, a person who reasonably believes that he or she is about to be injured is permitted to use force to prevent an assault.  The force used by that person cannot be more than is necessary, but two parts of the law are very favorable for those claiming self-defense.  The first point is that there is no duty to retreat under Washington law- a person is allowed to stand their ground and use force to defend themselves, even if they could have actually run away.  The law does not impose any duty on any person to retreat.  The second point of law that is favorable is that there doesn’t have to actually be any danger for a person to use force, so long the person using the force believes in good faith and on reasonable grounds that he is in actual danger of injury.  So, even if it turns out that there is no danger, force can be used if the person reasonably believed that there was danger.

After we educated the jury on the law of self-defense, the jury took just a few hours to review all the evidence and bring a verdict of not guilty based on self-defense for our client’s lawful use of force against a person threatening harm.

As a result, we saved our client decades of his life.

We live and breathe tough cases.  We know how to deliver a tough defense.  If you ever find yourself in a situation where your life or liberty is at stake, give us a call.  You can reach Derek directly at [email protected], or Tom at [email protected].