Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Former EWU football player could still face murder charge, as Court of Appeals grants review

Posted By on Tue, Dec 20, 2016 at 12:02 PM

click to enlarge LaShawn Jameison is still facing two counts of drive-by shooting. - YOUNG KWAK
  • Young Kwak
  • LaShawn Jameison is still facing two counts of drive-by shooting.

LaShawn Jameison was involved in a shootout that left one person dead earlier this year. The question now is: Even if Jameison didn't fire the fatal shot, can (and should) he be held responsible for the death?

In June, Spokane County Superior Court Judge Michael Price dismissed the first-degree murder charge against Jameison for his role in the shootout near the Palomino Club in north Spokane. Spokane County prosecutors appealed to the Washington State Court of Appeals, which agreed to review Price's ruling.

Jameison was charged under the murder by "extreme indifference" prong of Washington state law, which means a person can be held responsible for a murder if his or her actions create a "grave risk of death to any person," and "causes the death of a person."

The former Eastern Washington University football player was also originally charged with 14 counts of drive-by. Price dismissed 12 counts, leaving two (one for each bullet Jameison allegedly fired, though Jameison argues that he only fired once). Prosecutors are challenging those dismissals, as well.

In court documents, Spokane County prosecutors argue that Price's dismissal is based on the fact that Jameison did not fire the fatal bullet. That ruling, prosecutors say, sets a precedent that would make it impossible to charge anyone as an accomplice to murder under Washington's "extreme indifference" provision of the law.

Joshua Maurer, the attorney for Jameison, argues that prosecutors, in their request for an appeal, twisted Price's ruling. Price did not rule, Maurer says, that Jameison could not be charged with murder solely because he did not fire the fatal bullet. Rather, Price dismissed the charge because the state did not present sufficient evidence linking Jameison as an accomplice to Anthony Williams, who ultimately fired the bullet that killed 21-year-old Eduardo Villagomez.

Here's what went down that night:

After a night of partying, Jameison and his friend Kwame Bates were leaving the Palomino Club. Bates confronted another man, Williams, for pushing a woman, according to court documents.

The confrontation spilled out into the parking lot, and Williams left to get a handgun from his car, according to police records. Video surveillance footage show Bates and Jameison doing the same. Williams and Bates continued to chirp at each other as Jameison backed away and crouched behind a nearby car.

Williams fired the first shot, missing Bates, but striking Villagomez, who was standing on the road behind where Jameison and Bates had taken cover. Bates returned multiple shots; Jameison fired once or twice — both in the opposite direction of the victim, video shows.

Spokane County prosecutors and Maurer disagree over when Jameison fired, how many times and the extent to which Jameison played a role in the dispute between Bates and Williams.

"While the state can argue that Mr. Jameison demonstrated an extreme indifference to human life and or a grave risk of death to a person, there is no dispute that nothing that Mr. Jameison did caused the death of Mr. Villagomez, who was mortally wounded before Mr. Jameison fired a single shot," Price said when he dismissed the charges in July.

Before Price announced his decision to dismiss the murder charge, he grappled with the line between reckless indifference and self-defense.

"Is it OK when you are arguing self-defense, to start firing back at someone who is shooting at you?" Price asked rhetorically. "That's obviously very fact-dependent. For example, as Mr. Williams is firing on Mr. Jameison, does Mr. Jameison have to just sit there, crouching behind a car while Mr. Williams walks up and executes him? At what point is it OK to fire back?"
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