Half brother is cleared of murder

A King County jury yesterday acquitted a 20-year-old man of murder in the shooting death of his half brother on Christmas night two years ago.

But the jury was unable to decide whether Darin L. Ward was guilty of manslaughter, splitting 11-1 in favor of convicting him on the lesser charge, according to attorneys in the case.

King County prosecutors will likely decide within two weeks whether to retry Ward for manslaughter in the shooting death of Tony Johnson, said Dan Donohoe, spokesman for the Prosecuting Attorney's Office.

Ward is accused of shooting Johnson once in the chest. The two men had been arguing before the shooting outside Ward's Renton apartment, according to charging papers.

Three people were with them, but said they didn't see the shooting, charging papers say. The three heard a "pop," looked over and saw Johnson had been shot and Ward was holding a .22-caliber handgun, the papers say.

Ward's attorneys said the shooting was a tragic accident: Ward had been handling the gun and didn't mean to fire it.

"My client, from the beginning, has had great remorse and sorrow over the event, and it's devastated him as well as his family members," defense lawyer Walter Peale said yesterday.

"The brothers were by all accounts very close. They loved each other."

The jurors said they decided relatively early in their deliberations — which lasted nearly three days — that Ward was not guilty of either first-degree murder, which requires premeditation, or second-degree murder, which requires intent, Peale said. But he said one juror held out on convicting Ward of manslaughter, saying the shooting was an accident and not a crime.

Janet Burkitt: 206-515-5689 or jburkitt@seattletimes.com.