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Barrar, Kauffman convince jurors fatal shooting was accidental

Attorneys Jeff Barrar and Katie Kauffman successfully defended a client charged with first-degree murder in the shooting death of his wife. On Dec. 6, a jury agreed with the defense that the shooting was not intentional and convicted the client on a lesser charge of first-degree manslaughter.

Jurors also acquitted the client, Todd Marjama Jr., on a charge of first-degree assault. That felony charge was because the client’s young daughter had been with her mother when her mother was shot behind a closed bathroom door.

There was no evidence the client knew his daughter had been in the bathroom.

Trial began Nov. 26 in Clark County Superior Court. Jurors heard from 28 witnesses over seven days of testimony.  The 12 jurors deliberated approximately five hours on Dec. 6 before reaching a verdict.

Marjama has maintained since the June 28, 2016, shooting that his revolver went off by accident when he was trying to de-cock the weapon.

The U.S. Army veteran, who was honorably discharged and on 60 percent medical disability due to a traumatic brain injury sustained in Afghanistan, testified that he was suicidal at the time of the incident.

A single bullet went through his left hand, through a closed bathroom door and into his wife’s head. He said he had cocked the gun when he was considering suicide, and then decided not to kill himself because his wife told him she would be out in a second to talk to him.

He testified that he didn’t want to leave the weapon cocked. Jurors heard that to de-cock the revolver, Marjama would have had to pull the trigger while releasing the hammer.

A few minutes before the gun went off, family members testified Marjama had the revolver pointed to his head, threatening to kill himself.

A senior deputy prosecutor argued Marjama intentionally shot his wife. While he argued to jurors the shooting was premeditated, a judge allowed him mid-trial to amend the first-degree murder charge. That gave jurors a second theory under which they could have convicted him of first-degree murder. Under that theory, the jurors could have found that Marjama acted with “extreme indifference to human life.”

Barrar objected to the prosecutor amending the charge mid-trial. The prosecutor said he was amending the charge mid-trial because the idea had never occurred to him until another prosecutor asked him why he hadn’t done it.

As allowed by law, the defense submitted an alternative crime of second-degree manslaughter for the jury to consider.

The prosecutor offered his own alternative of first-degree manslaughter.

In convicting Marjama of first-degree manslaughter, jurors found that he was acting recklessly when his gun went off.

Witnesses for both the state and the defense testified that blood spatter on the bathroom door indicated Marjama’s hand was not against the door when the bullet pierced it. They estimated he was between six inches and two feet away from the door when the gun fired. There was no argument where Marjama was standing, because there was a pool of his blood on the floor.

The prosecutor said in closing arguments that Marjama told detectives he was familiar with the revolver and had fired it countless times while hunting. He had also previously safely de-cocked the weapon.

The prosecutor asked jurors how the shooting could have possibly been an accident.

During closing arguments, Kauffman said nobody from the Clark County Sheriff’s Office or the Washington State Patrol crime lab testified the revolver, which was recovered from the scene, had tested it to prove it was working properly.

This is a murder case, she said. How could they not bother to test the firearm?

Tags: Clark County, murder, manslaughter

Jeffrey D. Barrar, P.S.: Vancouver Defenders Jeffrey D. Barrar, P.S.
Vancouver Defenders