Second Degree Murder Charges Dismissed Against Vancouver Man

The Columbian reports charges against a Vancouver, WA man including Murder in the Second Degree were dismissed by the Clark County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office on Wednesday, March 12.  The case locally drew lots of attention in light of the George Zimmerman case in Florida.

According to the article, “Sean Doucette shot and killed Iosif Dumitrash, 19, of Portland just before 4:00 am January 29, 2013, in the 14800 block of Northeast 33rd Street”.

However, his defense attorney argued self-defense, the article states, “Doucette, an honorably discharged Marine, said that after getting off work from his job as a security guard, he returned home and saw Dumitrash breaking into a vehicle across the street”.  According to the article, Doucette’s attorney said he confronted the man, the man attacked him, and he shot Dumitrash in self-defense.  His attorney also said his client declined to make a statement to the police.

The article suggests a key witness for the State gave different accountings of the incident which likely hurt the government’s case, “A witness in the case, neighbor Rachelle Ammons, originally told Vancouver police that Doucette and Dumitrash had engaged in a physical altercation, then separate, according to a probable cause affidavit by Vancouver police Detective John Ringo.  Ammons said that Dumitrash was beginning to walk away when Doucette shot him, according to the affidavit.”  However during a subsequent witness interview, Ammons gave a different account of what happened that night — basically Doucette acted in self-defense when Dumitrash charged at him.”

To read the article in its entirety, please click the following link.

Below are random examples of instructions a juror might see in a Self-Defense Case:

In Washington it is a defense to a charge of murder, manslaughter that the homicide was justifiable as defined by the law.

Homicide is justifiable when committed in the lawful defense of the slayer when:  (1) the slayer reasonably believed that the person slain intended to commit a felony or intended to inflict death or great personal injury; (2) the slayer reasonably believed that there was imminent danger of such harm being accomplished; and (3) the slayer employed such force and means as a reasonably prudent person would use under the same or similar conditions as they reasonably appeared to the slayer, taking into consideration all the facts and circumstances as they appeared to him, at the time of [and prior to] the incident.  The State has the burden of proving beyond a reasonable doubt that the homicide was not justifiable.  See WPIC 16.02.

No person may, by any intentional act reasonably likely to provoke a belligerent response, create a necessity for acting in self-defense [or] [defense of another] and thereupon [kill] [use, offer, or attempt to use force upon or toward] another person.  Therefore, if you find beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant was the aggessor, and that defendant’s acts and conduct provoked or commenced the fight, then self-defense [or] [defense of another] is not available as a defense.  WPIC 16.04

A person is entitled to act on appearance in defending [himself] [herself] [another], if that person believes in good faith and on reasonable grounds that [he] [she] [another] is in actual danger of great personal injury, although it afterwards might develop that the person was mistaken as to the extent of the danger.  Actual danger is not necessary for a homicide to be justifiable.  WPIC 16.07