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Jury to Decide if Seattle University Shooter is ‘Criminally Insane’

Posted by Steve Karimi | Oct 05, 2016 | 0 Comments

The trial is set to start next week in the case of a man accused of killing one student and wounding two others in a 2014 shooting on the Seattle Pacific University campus.

Aaron Ybarra, now 29, is charged with murder in the first degree, three counts of attempted murder in the first degree and one count of assault in the second degree. If found guilty he could be sent to prison for life.

A person is guilty of murder in the first degree under Washington statute when the intent to cause the death of another person is premeditated. A person is guilty of attempted murder in the first degree if he or she takes a substantial step toward the commission of the crime. Both the murder and attempted murders are Class A felonies, punishable by life in prison, or a fine of up to $50,000, or both.

Criteria for assault in the second degree includes an intentional and reckless infliction of substantial bodily harm and use of a deadly weapon. It is a Class B felony punishable by up to 10 years in prison, or a fine of up to $25,000, or both.

As part of the anticipated five-week trial, jurors will visit the campus where the shooting took place. Ybarra is accused of scouting the campus before he returned in June 2014, and started shooting at students. Ybarra was captured after he stopped to reload. A student maced and tackled Ybarra, who has been held in jail without bond ever since. He has plead not guilty by reason of insanity.

Because Ybarra's attorney will launch an insanity defense, it will be the job of the jury to determine whether a preponderance of the evidence leads them to believe he is insane versus determining his guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. A preponderance of evidence is a lesser burden of proof “that the proposition is more likely true than not true,” whereas determining guilt “beyond a reasonable doubt” is required for a guilty verdict in a criminal trial.

According to court documents filed in Ybarra's defense, he may not have understood that what he did was wrong. The documents state he had developmental delays as a child, substance abuse issues and has been treated for mental illness.

To establish an insanity defense, a person at their arraignment or within 10 days of the arraignment, must file a written notice of their intent to launch an insanity defense. The defendant also must establish they are insane by a preponderance of the evidence. Anyone deemed “criminally insane” refers to someone who has been acquitted of a crime by reason of insanity, yet is found to be a substantial danger to others likely to commit criminal acts again, jeopardizing public safety or security unless they are ordered by the court to be confined to an institution.

Regardless of the circumstances, everyone charged with a crime is entitled to a good defense. If you are facing criminal charges, call the Seattle law office of Steve Karimi at (206) 621-8777 or contact him online.

About the Author

Steve Karimi

Steve Karimi attended Pepperdine University School of Law. After graduation he worked as a prosecutor in Seattle where he gained valuable insight to the criminal justice system. Attorney Karimi uses his experiences as a prosecutor everyday only now he fights for the justice of those accused.


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If you were arrested or a loved one has been charged with a crime in Seattle or surrounding areas of Washington State, the Law Offices of Steve Karimi can help. Call 206-660-6200 24 hours a day for a free consultation.

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Named a "rising star" in criminal defense by Washington Law and Politics magazine, Mr. Karimi is a former prosecutor for King County who uses his insight into prosecution strategies to protect his clients' rights in criminal court.