Marquise Tolbert burst into tears Thursday when a King County jury found him not guilty on murder and assault charges stemming from his involvement in a 2020 gunbattle in downtown Seattle that killed one person and injured six others.
The jury of seven men and five women reached their verdicts after a day of deliberations, finding Tolbert not guilty of first-degree murder and six counts of first-degree assault. Tolbert, 27, sobbed in relief as Superior Court Judge Melinda Young read the verdicts aloud, then embraced his defense attorneys after jurors filed out.
Tolbert was tried separately from his co-defendant, William Tolliver, 26, who is scheduled to stand trial on the same charges on Nov. 7.
“We are so relieved … It was a long, grueling trial for all of us,” said attorney Lisa Mulligan, who defended Tolbert with co-counsel Emily Gause.
During the trial that began July 28, Mulligan and Gause presented evidence that Tolbert fired in self-defense and that Seattle police detectives rushed to judgment in deciding Tolbert and Tolliver were the instigators of the six-second gunfight that erupted during the evening commute on Jan. 22, 2020.
Though the bullets that struck all of the victims came from Tolliver and Tolbert’s guns, Gause said video evidence showed someone went inside the McDonald’s on the corner of Third Avenue and Pine Street to get Jamel Jackson, a rival gang member, who aggressively confronted the two men and brandished his gun.
“They didn’t really care to find out what happened … They just stopped investigating once they had the video” and identified the shooters, Gause said of Seattle police outside the courtroom.
She said testimony at trial showed the lead detective didn’t analyze all of the video evidence from that night until June — and Gause said it showed “Jamel Jackson came out [of the McDonald’s] and initiated the whole thing.”
Jackson, 24, pleaded guilty to second-degree unlawful possession of a firearm in August 2021 for his role in the gunfight, court records show. He was sentenced to 16 months in jail but by that time, he had already served 576 days — roughly 19 months — in custody, and was released.
Jackson was shot in the leg during the gunbattle.
Senior Deputy Prosecutor Jennifer Petersen declined to comment on the jury’s verdicts.
During opening statements, Senior Deputy Prosecutor Brandy Gevers said Tolliver was the first to pull his gun and fire at Jackson. But Gause said Jackson was the one who aggressively confronted Tolbert and Tolliver and brandished his gun before Tolliver “freaked out” and fired the first shot at Jackson.
Gevers, who wasn’t in court Thursday, said at the time that Jackson “got off five rounds” from his 9-mm handgun as he ran east on Pine Street, and that Tolbert and Tolliver, who ran south on Third Avenue, blindly fired .380- and .40-caliber handguns over their shoulders after Jackson was no longer in sight, indiscriminately shooting six people on the crowded sidewalk.
Based on the shell casings found at the scene, Tolbert fired 10 rounds, Tolliver fired nine and Jackson fired at least five times, according to the attorneys.
Tanya Jackson, 50, who is not related to Jamel Jackson, was seen on video crossing Third Avenue before collapsing outside the McDonald’s, where she died from a gunshot wound.
A woman using a wheelchair and who had a small dog in her lap was shot three times in the abdomen and nearly died, while a 9-year-old Bremerton boy on his way to the ferry terminal with his family after a day trip to the Pacific Science Center suffered a fractured femur and collapsed near a lamppost, jurors were told.
A man on his way to a pickup basketball game and two Amazon employees on their way home from work also suffered nonfatal gunshot wounds.
Tolbert and Tolliver were arrested in Las Vegas nine days later.
After Tolbert was found not guilty of the murder and assault charges, Mulligan told the judge Tolbert was pleading guilty to first-degree unlawful possession of a firearm, a charge bifurcated from the main trial because it would have required disclosing Tolbert’s past felony convictions to the jury to prove he couldn’t legally possess a gun.
Tolbert is to be sentenced Friday on the firearm charge but since he has been jailed since his arrest in February 2020, it is expected he’ll be sentenced to time served and released from custody, his attorneys said.
Information from The Seattle Times’ archives is included in this story.