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Seattle woman Lakessha Johnson was shot in 1998 as she sat in the front of a car leaving a bowling alley. The bullet severed her spinal cord and paralyzed her, but didn't kill her. She passed away this November, and now the 13-year-old bullet wound is being blamed for her death.
The King County Medical Examiner's Office ruled her death a homicide. The exact cause of death was multiple chronic infected pressure ulcers from the gunshot wound.
Legal questions have now surfaced. Such as, can the shooter, Ronnie Deshaun Brown, be charged with murder? And does double jeopardy apply?
Statutes of limitations are laws that establish how many years a prosecutor has to bring a cause of action. After the statute of limitations runs out, criminal prosecution for the offense is barred. However, these laws vary depending on the state and the type of crime that was committed.
In Washington, murder has no statute of limitations. This means that Brown could be charged with murder 13 years after he pulled the trigger.
But can he? A spokesman for the King County prosecutor told the Seattle Times that there were concerns about double jeopardy. Double jeopardy statutes bar a criminal defendant from being prosecuted twice for the same offense.
In 1999, Brown pled guilty to unlawful possession of a firearm and a misdemeanor charge of reckless endangerment over the incident. Is this the same offense as murder? It's not, but he did receive punishment for actions resulting from the crime.
However, this doesn't necessarily mean he can't be prosecuted for any other crimes that came out of the same events. Double jeopardy usually does not apply in cases where one of the charges requires the prosecution to prove elements of a crime that the other does not.
If Brown was charged with Lakessha Brown's murder, prosecutors would have to prove additional elements that weren't in the 1999 case. Prosecutors are set to meet with investigators to determine if any charges will be filed, according to the New York Daily News.