April 18, 2009 in City

Mistrial declared as jurors divide in Spokane murder case

Meghann M. Cuniff Staff writer
 

A mistrial was declared in the second-degree murder trial of a Spokane man after jurors said Friday afternoon they were unable to agree on a verdict.

The ruling followed a day and a half of deliberations to decide whether Allan L. Turnipseed, 51, acted in self-defense when he fired two shots, killing Joshua A. Smith, 24, or if the slaying was murder, as Spokane County Deputy Prosecutor Steve Garvin argued.

The second-degree murder charge, filed more than nine months after Smith’s June 14, 2007, death, still stands.

Garvin said he’ll seek a new trial date next week, then meet with Chief Criminal Deputy Prosecutor Jack Driscoll to decide how to proceed. Garvin said he’s hoping for further police investigation.

Turnipseed remains free on $100,000 bond.

Defense lawyer Senit Lutgen described Turnipseed’s reaction as “mixed.”

“It’s unfortunate we don’t have real closure,” he said.

The victim’s family left without speaking to journalists. Lutgen said jurors were closely split when he talked with them after the mistrial.

“It’s been a tough case on everyone,” he said.

Smith’s death came after two encounters with Turnipseed on consecutive days in the neighborhood of Eighth Avenue and Ferrall Street near Turnipseed’s home.

Smith had dropped a co-worker off at a nearby house before driving past Turnipseed’s home, where a friend tossed a beer can from the car into a trash-filled container outside the home and Turnipseed yelled at them, according to police reports.

That confrontation ended with Turnipseed retreating to his home after he said Smith went to retrieve a tire iron from the trunk of his car, but the two saw each other the next day while driving in the same area.

That confrontation ended with Turnipseed firing two shots from his .380 Colt pistol at Smith as Smith was in the driver’s seat of his Mazda, Lutgen argued in court.

At issue during the nine-day trial before Superior Court Judge Greg Sypolt was what Smith was doing with the car – trying to drive away, as Garvin contends, or trying to run Turnipseed down, as Lutgen contends.

Smith had previously exited the car and threatened Turnipseed with a tire iron, according to court testimony.

The prosecution’s case included forensic evidence indicating Turnipseed was running alongside Smith’s car and shot him as he drove away, pressing a gun to his back before firing the second shot.

Lutgen urged jurors not to let that evidence outweigh eyewitness testimony that said Turnipseed fired at Smith only after Smith struck him with his car.

Meghann M. Cuniff can be reached at (509) 459-5534 or at meghannc@spokesman.com.


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