Judge Dismisses Doughten Case
A Superior Court Judge today dismissed the case against an Aberdeen man charged in the shooting death of his mother in 2009.
Senior Resident Superior Court James Webb granted a defense motion to dismiss the case against Douglas Doughten after the state finished presenting its evidence.
Police charged Douglas Doughten with voluntary manslaughter in the death of 72-year-old Barbara Shortt Doughten. He claims that he fired his pistol in the general direction of a side door of the house after hearing what he told police was someone trying to get in. The bullet passed through several walls before striking his mother in another room.
“There is clearly insufficient evidence to show even the first element of imperfect self-defense,” defense attorney Patrick Mincey told Webb in asking that the case be dismissed. “Douglas thought someone was breaking into his house. He never intended to kill his mother. ... He did not intend to shoot his mother.”
He called attention to the testimony from Aberdeen police Capt. Dan Wilson about how distressed Doughten was and how cooperative he had been at every point.
“He was protecting her,” he said. “He was acting aggressively toward an unknown third party. ... Douglas was acting in sheer regard for the safety of his mother based on a ransacking of his home that led someone who is 160 pounds dripping wet to try to protect his mother in his own home.”
Assistant District Attorney Peter Strickland, in responding, was as sympathetic to the defendant, but still insisted that Doughten acted recklessly when he pulled a gun and shot at the wall.
“The only part that was an accident was that he didn’t intend to shoot and kill his mother,” Strickland said. “He intended to pull the trigger. He pulled the trigger, and where that bullet goes, that’s where his intent goes. The defendant picked up the gun, pulled it from his holster, pointed at where he thought he heard a noise and pulled the trigger.
“It is true he didn’t intend to kill Mrs. Doughten. He did intend to kill someone. You pretty much have to have a reasonable belief that if someone is coming into your home that they intend to injure you or someone else to have the right to use deadly force.
“Going back to perfect self-defense, the state would contend he did intend to hurt someone else. He didn’t even step outside his bedroom to see if he could hear better or go to the kitchen area to determine if someone is coming into his home.”
At least two jurors said they were glad the judge dismissed the case.
“I would say I agreed,” Travos Green said. “I am just glad it didn’t come on our shoulders.”
Jonathan Allen agreed, saying the case was “just tragic.”
‘Stay With Me’
On Wednesday, the jury heard a tape recording of Doughten’s frantic 911 call. His mother lay in his arms on the floor of her bedroom where he was trying desperately to stop the flow of blood and restore her breathing by CPR.
“My gun went off, and I shot my mother!” he said, crying, his voice so high in pitch and so hoarse that the 911 operator thought he was hearing a woman. “Help me please! I shot my mother! Please help her!”
At the operator’s prompting, Doughten gave his address and telephone number.
“My gun went off!” he said. “She’s dying! Help me, please!”
Medical testimony earlier revealed that the bullet had passed through both lungs and the esophagus and that the cause of death was loss of blood from those internal wounds.
The courtroom sat in a solemn stillness listening to his cries of grief and desperation.
“Oh God! Mama! Oh my God, help me!” Doughten exclaimed.
At one point, Doughten apparently speaks to his mother.
“Please, please stay with me!” he pleads. “Mama! Please! Mama!”
In his opening statement, defense attorney James Van Camp stressed the bullet’s path, calling it a billion-to-one shot that was deflected as it passed through a television set. He called the death a tragedy rather than a crime.
Aberdeen police detective Carl Calasacco read from a statement Doughten made at the time of his arrest after being given the required Miranda warning.
“I thought someone was trying to get into the house and hurt me and my mom,” he said in the statement read to the court. “I got my gun out of my holster. I don’t remember firing the gun. I then ran out of my room toward her room, and she said call 911 and fell into my arms. I called 911. I remember giving her mouth-to-mouth.”
Doughten said the weapon was for home protection after their house had been broken into earlier that year.
“I wanted to protect my mom and myself at our house, because we were broken into and we were afraid,” he said.
Contact John Chappell at email@example.com.
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