Court upholds conviction of woman who shot husband

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SPOKANE — Washington’s Third District Court of Appeals has upheld the 2016 conviction of a Soap Lake woman found guilty of shooting her husband in the stomach in 2014, rejecting all claims that the trial court acted improperly.

Court records show that Josephine Johnson, now 80, approached her husband after overhearing a telephone conversation he was having with his sister, said “I don’t want to do this, but I have to,” and then pulled out a gun and shot him.

During the trial, Johnson’s attorney attempted first to frame the action as self-defense by a battered wife, describing past abuse she allegedly endured from her husband, but later settled on the argument in court that the gun fired by accident when her husband reached for it.

Johnson argued that the trial court violated her right to present a defense by denying a jury instruction stating that a guilty verdict could only come if jurors felt it was beyond a reasonable doubt that Johnson had not acted in self-defense. She also argued that the trial court erroneously “coerced” the jury into unanimously supporting special verdicts.

But the appeals court rejected these arguments, stating that the trial court rejected the instruction due to Johnson’s failure to establish that she subjectively feared she was in imminent danger. Further, nothing in court records suggested to the appeals court that the judge had behaved coercively by telling the jury to return to deliberations for the special verdicts, which had been accidentally unfilled.

Johnson also argued that her right to present a defense was violated by the exclusion of testimony from two doctors. Because the proposed testimony did not support any defense that was before the jury, there was no error, according to the appeals court.

“A criminal defendant does not have a constitutional right to present irrelevant or inadmissible evidence,” the judgment stated.

Johnson, who was able to remain out of jail during the appeal, now faces a 12-year sentence, pending further appeal.

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