Friday, July 14, 2006

No Charges for Bystander Shooting

A recent gang-related shootout in Tacoma left a 17-year-old bystander paralyzed, but Pierce County prosecutors can't bring charges. They have charged the (alleged) first shooter with murder and assault for the people he killed and injured. However, the girl who was paralyzed was injured by a stray bullet fired in response -- and that shooter was legitimately acting in self-defense. If the bystander had died, the first shooter could be charged with felony murder, but there is no "felony assault." Girl caught in crossfire and in law's loophole, The News Tribune, July 11, 2006.

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Thanks to Lisa Kremer for the story. Graphic by mw.


Anonymous said...

"Felony assault?" If self-defense is a complete defense to murder why wouldn't it also be a complete defense to assault.

That would be like saying a man who took a swing at his assailant in self-defense and happened to miss hitting an innocent bystand is a criminal.

I think this one should be left to the civil law to determine whether efforts at self-defense were reasonable.

Mary Whisner said...

The prosecutors weren't suggesting that the people who fired in self-defense could be charged. Rather, the first shooter -- the one who started it all -- could be charged with felony murder because the bystander was injured as a result of his crime. They analalogized the situation to a bank robber who can be charged when the security guard's bullet hurts a bystander.