Ross: King County court brings self defense to new level in downtown-shooting judgment

Sep 16, 2022, 7:49 AM | Updated: 3:54 pm

King County Courthouse...

King County Courthouse (Image: Joe Mabel)

(Image: Joe Mabel)

Yesterday in King County Superior Court, a jury found Marquise Tolbert not guilty of murder. According to the Seattle Times, he was so relieved he burst into tears and embraced his defense lawyers.

When I read the story, I, too, felt like bursting into tears, but for a different reason.

Here’s what happened: In January 2020, Tolbert and a friend – packing guns – had gone to Seattle’s most notorious intersection – 3rd and Pine – to target a rival gang member.

This guy also had a gun and threatened them with it. So Tolbert and Tolliver decided to run.

And as their pursuer fired at them, they fired back over their shoulders.

Tolbert fired 10 rounds; his friend fired nine. Unfortunately, there were also a lot of other people downtown. And during the course of that six-second gunbattle – six bystanders were shot by Tolbert and Tolliver. A woman in a wheelchair was shot three times in the abdomen. She went through 15 surgeries and now wears a colostomy bag. A 9-year-old walking with his family had his femur fractured. And Tanya Jackson, age 50, who had been crossing Third Avenue, collapsed outside the McDonald’s, and died from a gunshot wound.

And yesterday, the jury decided that, because Tolbert was firing in self-defense, he was not criminally responsible for the death of the woman crossing the street, or any of the other injuries.

According to the story, he will be sentenced to the time he’s spent in jail since his arrest, which means he’ll likely be released.

Does this make sense?

I looked up a few self-defense laws, and I found that in West Virginia, for example, you do have a right to defend yourself, but you must act “prudently and with due care.” And if you negligently hit someone other than your attacker – that’s a crime. Same in Oklahoma. Same in Pennsylvania. Same in Kansas.

But apparently, in Washington State, if you happen to hit six bystanders in the course of a gang feud – the law considers it collateral damage.

Mr. Tolbert’s companion goes on trial next. And if yesterday’s precedent stands, it sounds like he too will soon be crying tears of joy.

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Ross: King County court brings self defense to new level in downtown-shooting judgment