Superior Court County: King. Superior Court Cause No: 95-1-0285508.SEA. Date filed in Superior Court: August 24, 1995. Superior Court Judge Signing: Judge Jo Anne Alumbaugh.
Written by: Judge Mary Kay Becker, Concurred by: Judge H. Joseph Coleman, Judge Walter E. Webster
BECKER, J. -- Philip Lang died of a stab wound after a fight with his girlfriend, Geraldine Hendrickson. The State charged Hendrickson with felony murder. Hendrickson said she did not intend to kill Lang and did not remember inflicting the fatal blow. Persuaded that Hendrickson's testimony established only a defense of accident, the trial court took the issue of self-defense out of the case. We hold the testimony was sufficient to support Hendrickson's claim of self-defense.
At trial, Hendrickson testified that she and Lang began drinking beer when they arrived at their apartment after work on a Friday night in April, 1995. After an increasingly heated argument, Lang grabbed Hendrickson and began to hit her in the face. They fought intermittently over the next half hour, until Lang left the apartment.
When Lang returned about an hour later, he was angry and violent. He began to hit Hendrickson with his fists. Hendrickson testified:
And in defense of myself I raised up my hands. And then he said that if I wanted to fight like a man, he was going to beat me like a man. So he got worse.
Hendrickson fought back without much success. Eventually, she fled to the kitchen and picked up a knife. She said she only meant to scare Lang, but when he came at her again, she stabbed him in the arm. Lang wrestled the knife away from Hendrickson and cut her on the chin. In the course of a struggle for the knife, Hendrickson sustained another cut on the hand. Lang, she said, was trying to stab her in the throat; he said he was going to cut her "like Nicole Brown Simpson." Hendrickson was afraid Lang would kill her. She finally managed to get the knife and pull away from him. Moments later, Lang fell to the floor. Hendrickson thought he was joking:
I told him to come on, get up, quit joking around. And he
just laid there. And I looked at him, and then I looked at him again, and noticed there was something wrong at that point.
Hendrickson lifted up Lang's shirt and saw a puncture wound in his chest. She then called 911. Lang fell into a coma and died several days later.
Hendrickson did not recall inflicting the fatal wound to the chest. "The only thing that I remember is that he was coming at me after I had taken the knife away from him, and I had ...