Walla Walla shooting death probed

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WALLA WALLA — Police today continued an investigation into a shooting death Sunday at 1265 Belle St. during an argument between two longtime acquaintances, though no arrest has been made, according to Walla Walla police.

According to information gathered from police reports and press releases, Jonathan L. Phillips, 31, shot and killed Joshua S. White, 35, at roughly 6:30 a.m. Phillips, an employee of the Washington State Penitentiary, and White had known each other for many years.

The two were drinking at Phillips’ home when they got into an altercation according to police documents.

“A short while later, White forced open the back door of the home, and was shot by the resident,” police spokesman Tim Bennett wrote in a news release.

Walla Walla County Prosecuting Attorney Jim Nagle said this morning it is too early for his office to determine if any charges will be filed against the shooter, pending results of an autopsy of White’s body and the gathering of other information. Nagle added that police are investigating all defenses that could be raised, including the defense of self or property.

“The Washington State Legislature and the Washington State Supreme Court have made it clear that in such situations the prosecution should not charge a person with murder or manslaughter when they are defending themselves, their property, or against a felony, unless the prosecution has sufficient evidence to prove the absence of any of these defenses to a jury beyond a reasonable doubt,” Nagle said in an email.

“The State Supreme Court also requires that a jury take into consideration all the facts and circumstances as they appeared to the person being attacked. The slayer does not have the burden of proving that the homicide was justifiable; the state has the burden of proving that it wasn’t justifiable,” he said.

“Unless it is likely that a jury can be convinced beyond any reasonable doubt that a person was not defending themselves, their property, or against a felony, the jury is instructed that they must find the defendant not guilty. If the State cannot prove the absence of these defenses, a jury can also find that the State must pay for the cost of the defense of the slayer.

“Therefore we will wait until the investigation is complete,” Nagle said.

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