Gail Gerlach shot and killed 25-year-old Brendon Kaluza-Graham on March 25, 2013. That fact was never in dispute, with Gerlach, a 56-year-old self-employed plumbing contractor, admitting as much to police after he called 911. Kaluza-Graham had stolen Gerlach’s 1997 Chevrolet Suburban and was driving away when Gerlach fired a single shot.
Gerlach claimed to be acting in self-defense when he fired, saying he believed he saw Kaluza-Graham pointing a gun at him as he drove away. The SUV contained all of Gerlach’s work tools and had been idling in his Chief Garry neighborhood driveway when Kaluza-Graham got in and drove away.
The case sparked widespread community discussion about property crime, property rights and gun rights. Supporters of Gerlach believed he did what he had to do to protect his livelihood from a thief. Others said no one person has the right to be judge and jury. Gerlach is a vocal Second Amendment activist; Kaluza-Graham was a convicted car thief.
Gerlach was charged with first-degree manslaughter, with a maximum sentence of life in prison.
Prior to trial, Spokane County Superior Court Judge Annette Plese threw out much of what Gerlach told police at the scene, saying he hadn’t properly been given his Miranda rights . Further, Judge Plese ruled that Sharon Gerlach, Gerlach’s wife, could not be present in the courtroom during the trial because she witnessed the shooting.
A jury of 11 women and one man acquitted Gerlach on April 10, 2014 on a 10-2 vote, finding that he acted in self-defense. Washington law holds that defendants and their legal representatives are entitled to be repaid for reasonable court fees and lost wages if the jury makes that decision. Gerlach’s five-member defense, including three attorneys and two expert witnesses, submitted a bill for nearly $330,000. Plese is evaluating the bill, which will be paid through taxpayer funds.
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Prosecutor candidates promise fresh approach to criminal justice
Sept. 19, 2014 in City on Page A5 Both candidates for Spokane County prosecutor promised change as they debated Thursday at a downtown candidate forum. The extent of those changes, and the person most qualified to make them, … 40
Judge authorizes $221,574 payment to Gerlach attorneys, witnesses
July 22, 2014 in City on Page A1 Taxpayers will have to dole out more than $220,000 to defense attorneys and expert witnesses who helped Gail Gerlach beat a manslaughter charge in an April trial. A jury acquitted … 112
Defense attorneys list expenses in Gerlach trial
Gerlach attorneys argue for nearly $330,000 in state reimbursement
May 31, 2014 in City on Page A5 Months of preparation and hours of testimony in the high-profile manslaughter trial of Gail Gerlach were converted to dollars and cents Friday as attorneys argued how much the state should … 40
All of us share stake in Gerlach’s defense bill
Gerlach’s acquittal reflects society’s shifting attitudes
April 20, 2014 in City on Page A1 The seeds were sown for Gail Gerlach’s manslaughter acquittal in part by a Spokane murder conviction overturned more than 30 years ago. In August 1972, Yvonne Wanrow shot and killed … 307
Gerlach acquitted in shooting death of fleeing vehicle thief
April 11, 2014 in City on Page A1 A Spokane jury affirmed the rights of gun owners to protect themselves on Thursday, acquitting Gail Gerlach of killing a man who was speeding away in Gerlach’s stolen SUV. Tears … 73
Jury acquits Gerlach of manslaughter
Gerlach tells jurors he feared for his life
April 10, 2014 in City on Page A1 A year after fatally shooting Brendon Kaluza-Graham, who was speeding away in his SUV, Gail Gerlach told jurors the only thing he did wrong that day was mistake keys for … 129
Gail Gerlach testifies, saying he feared for his life
Gail Gerlach’s wife says she feared SUV thief had gun
April 9, 2014 in City on Page A5 Sharon Gerlach feared for her husband’s life in the moments before he fired on the couple’s fleeing SUV, killing driver Brendon Kaluza-Graham. “I thought he was holding a gun, pointing … 213
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Police say Gerlach’s sightline was impeded
April 8, 2014 in City on Page A1 Police detectives testified Monday that it would have been nearly impossible for Gail Gerlach to see a threatening gesture made inside his stolen vehicle, wrapping up the prosecution’s case in … 149
Gerlach’s single bullet paralyzed, killed Kaluza-Graham quickly
April 4, 2014 in City on Page A5 The bullet fired by Gail Gerlach would have robbed Brendon Kaluza-Graham of his motor skills within “moments” and killed him almost as quickly, Spokane County Medical Examiner Sally Aiken said … 149
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Jurors hear Gerlach’s 911 call
April 3, 2014 in City on Page A5 Moments after Gail Gerlach fatally shot Brendon Kaluza-Graham, he called 911 to report his SUV had been stolen. As the dispatcher took his information, a breathless Gerlach interrupted her: “Honey, … 87
Jurors hear 911 call on first day of Gerlach testimony
April 2, 2014 in City Moments after Gail Gerlach fatally shot Brendon Kaluza-Graham, he called 911 to report his truck had been stolen. As the dispatcher took his information, a breathless Gerlach interrupted her: “Honey, … 23
Testimony in Gerlach trial will start today
April 2, 2014 in City on Page A1 Eleven women and one man will decide if Gail Gerlach is guilty of manslaughter. After a day-and-a-half of questioning, attorneys for the prosecution and defense settled on 12 jurors and … 142
Attorneys closer to choosing jury in Gerlach’s manslaughter trial
April 1, 2014 in City on Page A5 The list of possible jurors in Gail Gerlach’s manslaughter trial shrank Monday as attorneys weeded out people with strong opinions in a widely publicized case that touches on self-defense and … 66
Jury selection starts in Gerlach manslaughter trial
March 31, 2014 in City The list of people who will hear testimony in the manslaughter trial of Gail Gerlach shrunk Monday as attorneys challenged potential jurors and Gerlach’s wife was excluded from the courtroom … 29