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Judge to decide if it”s third strike

A jury couldn’t decide all the charges against murder suspect Devenniyon Marquise Courtney, but enough to send the 27-year-old man to prison for the rest of his life.

After about seven hours of deliberation starting Monday afternoon, a Spokane County jury ruled Tuesday that Courtney was guilty of first-degree murder, first-degree burglary, two counts of first-degree robbery and one count of attempted first-degree robbery in an Oct. 19 motel-room holdup.

The jury was deadlocked on whether Courtney was guilty of two counts of first-degree kidnapping in the fatal armed robbery at the Apple Tree Inn, 9508 N. Division.

Courtney robbed two members of a salvage crew from Waterloo, Iowa, in their motel room and fatally shot their boss, 43-year-old Martin H. Doerring, when Doerring walked in on the robbery and resisted.

Deputy Prosecutor Matt Duggan, who tried the case with Deputy Prosecutor Eugene Cruz, said he and Cruz probably will not pursue the kidnapping charges if Superior Court Judge Jerome Leveque agrees the murder and robbery convictions constitute Courtney’s third “strike” under state law. Leveque will address the issue when he sentences Courtney in about a month.

State law says a person sent to prison a third time for a serious, violent crime is never to get another chance. The mandatory sentence is life without possibility of parole when a judge calls “strike three.”

Duggan said Courtney’s previous strikes were a second-degree child-molestation conviction and a first-degree burglary conviction. Court records show the child molestation occurred in May 1997, but he wasn’t sentenced until February 1999. The burglary occurred in October 1999, and Courtney was sentenced in October 2002.

In addition, Courtney was convicted of felony harassment last year in a domestic-violence case, for which Superior Court Judge Sam Cozza sentenced him, in March 2003, to nine months in jail. The deadly Apple Tree Inn robbery occurred shortly after Courtney’s release.

Before his trial, Courtney pleaded guilty to being a felon in possession of a firearm to avoid exposing his criminal history to the jury.

There were only two days of testimony before the trial recessed for the weekend on Thursday. Courtney remained silent and presented no witnesses, but Assistant Public Defender Douglas Boe argued in closing arguments Monday that Courtney shot Doerring accidentally. Boe contended Courtney had second thoughts during the robbery and just wanted to get away when Doerring struggled with him.

Two of Courtney’s victims, Clifton Brown III and Martin G. Moyer, testified against him. They and Doerring had been staying at the Apple Tree Inn while doing salvage work at the closed Kaiser aluminum smelter in Mead. On the night of the deadly holdup, the men stopped at Miller’s Tavern for drinks on the way back to their motel room.

Police believe Courtney targeted the men after learning they carried a substantial amount of cash.

Courtney knocked on their motel door about 1:10 a.m. and confronted Brown and Moyer with a .22-caliber revolver. He took a small amount of cash and demanded more. When Brown and Moyer told Courtney that Doerring had most of their money, Courtney waited for Doerring, who had remained at Miller’s.

Doerring put up a fight and was shot when he walked into the trap.