State legislator wants to change self-defense laws after Seattle shooting suspect found not guilty

Sep 23, 2022, 3:05 PM | Updated: Dec 21, 2022, 2:25 pm

not guilty, Seattle shooting...

Marquise Tolbert and William Tolliver plead 'not guilty' to murder and assault charges. (KIRO 7/Rob Munoz)

(KIRO 7/Rob Munoz)

Two men were put on trial for a downtown Seattle shooting that left one woman dead and seven other people injured in 2020, but recently in King County Superior Court, a jury found Marquise Tolbert not guilty of murder.

In January 2020, Tolbert and his co-defendant went to the intersection of 3rd and Pine to target a rival gang member. The man 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 and Tolliver shot six bystanders, including a woman in a wheelchair, a 9-year-old boy, and Tanya Jackson, age 50, who died from a gunshot wound.

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 other injuries.

KIRO Newsradio’s Dave Ross wrote a commentary on the court’s decision the next day, saying that Washington should look at other state’s self-defense laws which require those looking to use self-defense “prudently and with due care.”

State Representative Jim Walsh (R-19th) came on the John Curley and Shari Elliker Show, saying he wants to create a bill that will “clear up the language around self-defense” to protect people he feels have actual self-defense claims while still allowing the state to punish others.

Seattle shooting suspects charged with murder, assaults

Walsh says that the current language around self-defense gives prosecutors too much discretion when applying the law, allowing incidents like Tolbert’s trial to use the defense when running from a shooter and firing blindly, but punishing Washington residents that confront and use deadly force against catalytic converter thieves.

“We can make our law better for people who actually act in self-defense, at the same time, narrowing it so this kind of ridiculous misuse of the statute doesn’t ever happen again,” Walsh said. “I’ve seen even before this McDonald’s shooting happened. I was getting complaints from people saying the flip side of it, prosecutors are being vicious and going after people who use force or deadly force to protect themselves or the property … largely with these catalytic converter thefts.”

“I don’t think that’s the spirit of our law here,” Walsh continued.

So how does a bill like this get passed? Rep. Walsh said they would need a Republican majority to get the ball rolling, a goal he is hopeful will happen this November midterm election.

“There’s a good chance. I mean, I think people are fed up with a lot of stuff that’s been going on, we only need nine seats, we need to flip nine seats in the state legislature of the state house to get a thin majority,” Walsh said. “This crosses party lines, this crosses race and gender, this crosses equity, all the issues that are important to the current speaker and the current governor, people of all sorts are upset about this.”

Listen to John Curley and Shari Elliker weekday afternoons from 3:00 p.m. – 7:00 p.m. on KIRO Newsradio, 97.3 FM. Subscribe to the podcast here.

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State legislator wants to change self-defense laws after Seattle shooting suspect found not guilty