Skip To Page Content

Self-Defense Claim results in dismissal of Second Degree Murder Case in Clark County April, 2024

On December 15, 2021 an argument between two friends ultimately resulted in a fatal shooting. What happened was a tragedy, but not a crime.

Dean Spellman is seventy-four years old and resides in the main residence on his property with his wife Katherine. He is self employed as a beekeeper. His son Joshua, the accused, was living in the bunkhouse and Andrew Dickson, the deceased, was also living on the property in a tent.

When CCSO arrived Dean reported that he and Katherine were in the living room watching television on the evening of December 15. They heard a shot fired outside. Seconds later they heard someone run through the back door of the house. Then Joshua rushed into the living room. He had a pistol. They could see he was terrified. Dean told Deputy Luke Debiak: “Joshua was visibly upset, and his voice was shaking.” Joshua told Dean that Andrew was “really pissed off.” He was so upset that Joshua fired a round into the air as a warning before running back into the residence. Andrew soon stormed into the room “moving very quickly and taking large steps as he was closing the distance between himself and Joshua,” shouting that Joshua was a “son of a bitch” and threatening him. Andrew’s fists were clenched and his fists were in the air as he rushed Joshua. Dean said he’d never seen Andrew that angry before and “it didn’t look like he was going to stop” as he attacked Joshua. Andrew was only two feet away when Joshua raised the pistol and fired one shot in self-defense.

Dean also reported that he has never seen Andrew “as angry like this” in all his years of knowing Andrew since he was three years old. He also shared that Andrew has a history of mental health issues and that “Joshua was just protecting himself and had nothing to worry about if he just told the truth.”

Katherine also described the shooting as an act of self-defense. She heard Joshua blurt out “Andrew has gone crazy,” and “I don’t want to have to shoot him.” After hearing a loud bang from the direction of the back door seconds later she saw Andrew run “in a full sprint towards Joshua, screaming “You son of a bitch.” As Andrew charged towards Joshua he had both of his fists clenched into a ball at head level winding up to punch Joshua. Joshua only raised the pistol when Andrew was right on top of him. Andrew fell to the ground and started crying and apologizing to Joshua. Joshua started crying and saying “I couldn’t let you” and “I had to stop you.” Katherine reported she had never seen Andrew this angry before and described him as “raging.”

The case is a good example of a rush to judgement where our client was arrested for murder within hours of the shooting. If law enforcement had taken more time and fully investigated what happened before making the arrest, the prosecutor’s office may not have decided to file the case.

Several important aspects of the law of self-defense played a role in convincing the prosecutor that he could not prove the crime charged. Many people think that you cannot use deadly force unless you can prove that you were about to be killed, or that you cannot use a gun against an unarmed assailant. However, the law in Washington puts the burden of proof on the State in self-defense cases. Further, you are entitled to use deadly force against any assault where there is a reasonable possibility you could suffer even great bodily injury. Further, you are not required to wait until your assailant beats you senseless before you use a gun, and there is no duty to retreat.

Posted on by Steven W. Thayer, PS
Self-Defense Claim results in dismissal of Second Degree Murder Case in Clark County April, 2024

Comments are closed.

Explore Other Posts


Pin it