Jury: B.G. man guilty of attempted murder in hammer attack

By Paris Achen and Emily Gillespie

Published:

Updated: June 27, 2014, 5:11 PM

 

A Clark County jury found a Battle Ground man guilty of bashing his then-girlfriend and best friend in the heads with a hammer when he found them in bed together.

The jury found Marcus Morrison, 31, guilty of two counts of first-degree attempted murder with egregious lack of remorse. The jury found Morrison not guilty of second-degree attempted murder charges. The finding of egregious lack of remorse allows Superior Court Judge Robert Lewis to sentence Morrison to time in excess of the state’s standard sentencing range.

Jurors began deliberations at about 10:30 a.m. Thursday and continued before their verdict was announced about 11 a.m. Friday.

“Justice prevailed,” said victim Rena Donnelly, Morrison’s ex-girlfriend. “I was nervous and scared. They were out for a long time.”

Morrison’s sentencing hearing is scheduled for Wednesday.

During the weeklong trial, prosecutors argued that Morrison intended to kill his best friend, Aaron Warner, and then-girlfriend, Donnelly, while they were sleeping at Warner’s house in Vancouver on Nov. 23.

“If you hit someone with multiple blows to the head with a hammer, the intent is murder,” Deputy Prosecutor Luka Vitasovic said.

Morrison’s defense attorney, Jeff Sowder, argued that Morrison acted in the heat of passion after seeing “his girl” in bed with his best friend.

“If he intended to kill, why didn’t he keep pounding?” Sowder asked. The elements of attempted murder have not been proven, the defense attorney said.

The 12 jurors were asked to decide, first, whether Morrison intended to kill, and secondly, whether the act was premeditated. The second factor was needed for conviction of the more severe charge of first-degree attempted murder.

In determining premeditation, “we were focused on him entering the room, seeing them sleeping and instead of attacking them right away, leaving the premises, going and getting a weapon and coming back,” said juror Keith Lloyd.

Lloyd said the fact that Morrison hit the victims in the head, rather than in some other body part, convinced him that Morrison intended murder.

A couple of the jurors initially had doubts about whether Morrison premeditated the attempted murder, Lloyd said. The jury was at an impasse at the end of Thursday’s deliberations.

However, by Friday morning, everyone agreed there was premeditation, Lloyd said.

The jury methodically went through each jury instruction and count and listed evidence in columns, Lloyd said.

“We were trying to be deliberate in how we weighed the evidence,” he said.

Donnelly testified Tuesday that she and Morrison had been dating for a couple of months when the incident occurred.

The night before the attack, Morrison, Donnelly and Warner were drinking together at a Battle Ground saloon to celebrate Warner’s upcoming birthday. While at the bar, Morrison became upset, apparently because he thought Donnelly was paying more attention to Warner, according to testimony. She said he confronted her about her flirtations, and she responded that she wouldn’t tolerate his controlling behavior and then said she was breaking up with him.

After going home with Warner and falling asleep next to him, Donnelly said she awoke when Morrison struck Warner in the head with a hammer. In response to her screams, Morrison raised the hammer and told Donnelly, “shut the (expletive) up, (expletive); you’re next,” Warner testified Monday.

Then, Morrison struck Donnelly in the head with the hammer as she attempted to get away, Warner said.

Donnelly’s resulting skull facture exposed her brain to the open air and caused bone splinters to puncture her brain tissue, permanently interfering with her mobility and sensation on the right side, according to testimony. Warner’s skull also was fractured, but his brain tissue wasn’t injured.

With the verdict determined, Donnelly said she plans to now focus on healing.

“I’m happy it’s done, and I can move on,” she said.