A drug dealer who claimed he shot a deputy sheriff in self-defense last January was convicted Thursday of attempted murder.
An eight-member jury deliberated about three hours before returning the guilty verdict against Karl "Willy" Winsness, 37, who shot and nearly killed Salt Lake County Sheriff's Deputy Keith Rogers.Third District Judge Raymond S. Uno sentenced Winsness forthwith to Utah State Prison to serve an indeterminate term of five years to life.
Rogers was among a half-dozen deputies who were trying to serve a "no-knock" search warrant at Winsness' home, 448 N. Ninth West, the night of Jan. 22.
As the deputies began kicking down the front door, five shots were fired toward the door and adjacent wall. One round pierced Rogers' arm and lodged in his chest.
In closing statements Thursday morning, prosecutors told the jury that Winsness acted unreasonably in firing upon the officers, who testified they had yelled "sheriff's office" while attempting to enter the home.
But defense attorney Robert Van Sciver told the jurors that Winsness an admitted dope dealer was frightened that bandits were coming to rob or hurt him.
"I think that from beginning to end this was a shot in self-defense," Van Sciver said, admonishing the jury to disregard the facts that Winsness' lifestyle was "detestable" and that the victim happened to be a policeman.
"Reason, as Willy has, that he was justified in defending himself and his habitation," Van Sciver said.
Van Sciver recounted how a police officer, without identifying herself, had called Winsness a few hours earlier to see if he was home.
That phone call frightened Winsness, Van Sciver said. "Why was that phone call made? What possible impact could that have had on (Winsness)?" the attorney asked.
Winsness also testified that he did not hear the police officers identify themselves, and testimony from the officers regarding that point was confused, Van Sciver said.
In fact, he said, Rogers failed to mention in his testimony whether officers yelled "sheriff's office" before trying to enter.
But prosecutor Marty Verhoef told jurors that Winsness' actions were intentional and aggravated.
"The defendant intended to kill someone coming through that door. It's only by the grace of God that two or three deputies weren't killed that night," Verhoef said.
Verhoef pointed to the fact that Winsness at first told the court he didn't know who was coming through the door but later said he thought it was bandits.
The prosecutor also noted that Winsness was under the influence of heroin. "How accurate is he? How reasonable is he in his perception?" Verhoef asked.
Earlier Thursday, Winsness' father testified that his son had called him the night of Jan. 22 and said he was was confused and that police had surrounded his house and were going to kill him.