Gail Gerlach Acquitted of First Degree Manslaughter
Gerlach’s Acquittal Sends Strong Message on self-defense
Criminal defense lawyers in Spokane paid close attention when Gail Gerlach was acquitted of first-degree manslaughter charges. Defense lawyers, Richard Lee and David Stevens, sent a clear message to prosecutors when the Spokane-area resident was acquitted of First Degree Manslaughter for shooting 25 year old Brendon Kaluza-Graham on March 25, 2013. The shot killed Kaluza-Graham who was driving away in Gerlach’s vehicle. Gerlach left the vehicle running while getting ready to take his wife to work.
The Spokane Prosecutor’s Office reportedly took a vote and three voted for charging Gerlach and three voted against filing. Prosecutor Steven Tucker broke the tie. The case had been forwarded to Tucker’s office by Spokane Police Department with no recommendation, which is arguably a recommendation not to charge. Tucker publicly stated that he “wanted to send a message to the citizens of Spokane.”
The defense argued that the Defendant saw the fleeing man make threatening gestures that looked like he was pointing a gun at Gerlach. The vehicle was about ten or twelve feet away, according to the defense. But the State of Washington argued that the distance was 66 feet.
Gerlach faced up to ten years in prison if found guilty. He rejected a plea offer in which prosecutors offered him one year of confinement. Gerlach testified his perception was that it was a gun and that “this was it”, that he was going to be killed.
Gerlach’s round hit the rear window glass and a child’s car seat, also striking a headrest before striking Kaluza-Graham. Gerlach testified that he shot because he believed if he didn’t, he would have been killed.
Pivotal defense testimony
Robert Smith, of Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, an expert witness in Gerlach’s trial, spent over four hours testifying and was instrumental in helping the jury reach a verdict of not guilty. Smith has over three decades of experience as a law enforcement qualified firearms training instructor. He told us he spent the last seven to eight months working with Gerlach’s defense team.
Smith explained that the jury had to decide whether the shot was justified based on what Gerlach knew at the time that he had to make the critical decision about whether to defend himself.
The news media published a high school graduation picture of the Brendon Kaluza-Graham and another picture surfaced after the trial that appeared to be Kaluza-Graham at about 12-14 years old. There may have also been some reports (but we haven’t seen them) regarding all the other vehicles that Kaluza-Graham stole or even something about 25 grams of methamphetamine found in his possession.
The judge awarded Gerlach’s criminal defense team reasonable attorney’s fees under Washington State’s special verdict statute for self-defense cases. The award was $221,574.42, according to the Spokesman-Review:
Judge Annette Plese signed an order authorizing payment of $221,574.42 to attorneys Richard Lee and Dave Stevens, as well as expert witnesses Gaylan Warren and Robert Smith. Under Washington state law, the jury’s finding of self-defense allows civil damages to be awarded to Gerlach to cover “reasonable” court costs.
Spokane criminal defense lawyers, David Stevens and Richard Lee, educated the jury as to what it means to see things through the eyes of a reasonable armed citizen. The jury deliberated a relatively short amount of time and determined that the case was one of self-defense.
The verdict announced to the Prosecutor’s Office that filing charges against citizens trying to defend themselves and their families is the wrong thing to do.