Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Seattle man sentenced to 20 years for officer's slaying

By Natalie Singer
Seattle Times staff reporter

A 31-year-old Seattle man was sentenced to 20 years in prison this morning for the 1994 slaying of Seattle police Officer Antonio Terry. Quentin Ervin was serving time for a second-degree-murder conviction in Terry's slaying when the case was refiled as aggravated first-degree murder and attempted first-degree murder after King County prosecutors last year were given a green light to pursue the more serious charges by a state Supreme Court decision.

Ervin last week pleaded guilty to the first-degree-murder charge, and in exchange prosecutors reduced the charge from aggravated murder and dropped an attempted-murder charge.

Senior Deputy Prosecutor Scott O'Toole said his office would seek a 20-year sentence.

On June 4, 1994, Terry stopped to help Ervin and his friend Eric Smiley, whose vehicle had broken down on an Interstate 5 offramp. Terry was in plainclothes when he was fatally shot with a bullet prosecutors said came from a gun fired either by Ervin or Smiley.

"To this day we don't know who fired the fatal shot," O'Toole said after Ervin pleaded guilty.

Smiley was convicted of first-degree murder in 1997 and was sentenced to 33 years in prison.

Ervin originally faced three separate charges: aggravated first-degree murder, attempted first-degree murder and second-degree felony murder — based on the commission of an assault during the crime.

A jury was required to deliberate each charge individually. According to the jurors' instructions, if they couldn't agree or found Ervin not guilty on one charge, they were to move on to the next, less serious charge. If they reached a guilty verdict for any charge, they were to stop.

Unable to come to a verdict on aggravated first-degree murder and then on the attempted first-degree-murder charge after five weeks of deliberation, jurors convicted Ervin in 1996 of second-degree felony murder.

But in 2002, a Supreme Court ruling known as the Andress decision nullified Ervin's conviction by throwing out the law that covered the felony-murder crime. In Andress, the justices said that an assault leading to an unintended death cannot be a murder but instead must be prosecuted as manslaughter.

The state decided to retry him on the first two charges — aggravated first-degree and attempted first-degree murder.

Information from Seattle Times archives is included in this report

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