Defense admits murder but seeks assault acquittals

jpawloski@theolympian.comNovember 21, 2013 

Jurors heard closing arguments Wednesday in the murder trial of David Henkleman, accused of fatally stabbing 32-year-old Casey Heath on the smoking patio of McCoy’s Tavern in downtown Olympia Dec. 4, 2012.

During defense attorney Sunni Ko’s closing argument, she conceded that Henkleman, 35, committed second-degree murder by repeatedly stabbing Heath that night.

Thurston County Deputy Prosecuting Attorney James Powers had presented evidence that Henkleman, who did not know Heath, stabbed Heath 13 times in an unprovoked attack.

“Yes, Casey Heath did not do anything,” Ko agreed in her closing argument. “He was not the aggressor at all.”

But Ko asked the jury to acquit Henkleman of first-degree assault and second-degree assault for stabbing two men who responded to Heath’s stabbing that night. Ko argued that the state failed to prove that Henkleman did not act in self-defense when he stabbed them.

“You can reasonably defend yourself if you believe you are about to be injured,” Ko said.

If the jury finds Henkleman guilty of second-degree murder, he could be sentenced to 20 years in prison. Guilty verdicts on the two assault charges could add between 10 and 15 years to that term, Ko has said.

Ko characterized Heath’s two friends as aggressors who attacked Henkleman. She pointed out inconsistencies in the accounts of the incident provided by one of the two. In one instance, the man said he kneed Henkleman to get him off of Heath. In another, the man said he was stabbed after he pushed Henkleman off Heath, Ko said.

Ko said the other man who came to Heath’s aid suffered only an inch-deep stab wound to his side. She argued that because the wound did not result in permanent injury, it could not have been the result of a first-degree assault with the intent to cause great bodily harm.

Prosecutor Powers disagreed with Ko and called Henkleman the obvious aggressor, who could not have acted in self-defense when Heath’s friends tried to intervene. “He’s got a knife in his hand,” Powers said of Henkleman. “The blade is still extended with the blood of Casey Heath.”

Powers also contended it was mere luck that Heath’s friends did not suffer more serious injuries. Almost a year ago at 1:30 a.m., dispatchers sent Olympia police to investigate a stabbing at McCoy’s in the 400 block of Fourth Avenue. Police found Henkleman several blocks away at Pear Street and State Avenue after several bar patrons chased Henkleman out the tavern door. Henkleman was holding a knife to his own throat when police arrived.

When he refused to drop the knife, officers used a stun gun to disarm him.

Henkleman, who did not testify in his own defense, remembers nothing of what happened that night, Ko said. Henkleman was very intoxicated that night, and he sometimes “appears to not play with a full deck,” Ko said.

Heath’s family and girlfriend attended Wednesday’s closing arguments in Thurston County Superior Court Judge Christine Schaller’s courtroom. The jury is to begin discussing the verdict Thursday morning.

At a memorial for Heath last year, more than 400 people crowded the Olympia Ballroom to mourn the loss of the expert skateboarder.

Jeremy Pawloski: 360-754-5445

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