The state Court of Appeals has overturned the murder convictions of a man who killed two Island County sheriff’s deputies, saying one of the jury instructions was improperly worded.
A three-judge panel of the Seattle division of the court ruled 2-1 that the jury in Darrin Rand Hutchinson Sr.’s trial was given an improper instruction on self-defense.
The jury needed to be told that the killings were justifiable if Hutchinson could show that he shot the deputies because he reasonably believed he was in imminent danger of great personal injury, the appeals court said, citing a recent state Supreme Court ruling in another case.
Instead, the instruction given to Hutchinson’s jurors allowed them to reject the self-defense argument if they determined that he was not actually in imminent danger of harm.
John Saxerud, 31, and Williams Heffernan, 46, had arrested Hutchinson at a Whidbey Island ferry dock for drunken driving on Nov. 14, 1987. They failed during a pat-down search to find a .32-caliber handgun Hutchinson, then 26, had tucked in his pants.
Hutchinson confessed to shooting the two deputies in the sheriff’s office in Coupeville while they were questioning him. He later claimed at the trial that he shot them in self-defense for physically abusing him by slamming his head against a wall.
But prosecutors said there was no evidence Hutchinson was assaulted and that he shot the deputies while they were sitting down, catching them by surprise.
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