Shot in the Dark

Accused cop killer Christopher Monfort's insanity defense.

On Monday, attorneys for accused Seattle cop killer Christopher Monfort said they will rely on an insanity defense in the hope of preventing their client from receiving the death penalty. They officially filed notice of such a defense on February 1.

One of the court-appointed attorneys, Carl Luer of the Associated Counsel for the Accused, also tells Seattle Weekly that if King County Prosecuting Attorney Dan Satterberg were to drop the death-penalty charge, "it is entirely possible" that they would plead their client guilty to ambushing SPD officer Tim Brenton on Halloween night 2009. The move comes a few days after a King County judge in another capital case—the slaughter of a Carnation family by a family member and her boyfriend—threw out the death-penalty charge due to a legal defect in that case. Monfort's attorneys say they are seeking to determine if the ruling affects their case as well.

Monfort, 44, is charged with the aggravated murder of Brenton, 39, and the attempted murder of his partner Britt Sweeney. Sweeney was somehow only grazed when a gunman pulled up next to their police cruiser on a side street in Leschi and opened fire with an assault weapon, then drove off.

A week later, after tracking his car to an apartment in Tukwila, police shot Monfort, leaving him paralyzed from the waist down. Police say Monfort initially attempted to kill another officer, Sgt. Gary Nelson, who confronted him on a stairway, pointing a gun at Nelson's face and pulling the trigger. The Glock 9 had no shell in the chamber, though, and dry-fired instead. Police fired six shots at Monfort as he fled, two of them striking him. One bullet passed through Monfort's cheek and neck; the other entered his back and struck his spine. That bullet remains lodged in his body today.

Monfort is also charged with arson—allegedly setting fire to a mobile police command center—and accused of booby-trapping the arson scene in an apparent attempt to kill first responders. He has been in custody and in a wheelchair on the King County Jail's seventh-floor medical unit since his November 2009 arrest. His trial is tentatively set for this fall.

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