EVERETT, Wash. (AP) — A jury has rejected claims of self-defense and found Simeon Berkley guilty of second-degree murder in a road-rage incident in Everett in 2019.
Berkley, 75, testified that Steven Whitemarsh had been aggressively tailgating his car around 7 p.m. July 6, 2019. Whitemarsh’s Lincoln Navigator crashed into the back of Berkley’s Honda Accord, the Everett Herald reported.
Berkley got out of his car and walked over to the Lincoln as Whitemarsh, 49, remained in the front seat. Berkley said he felt threatened by Whitemarsh so he shot the driver twice in the head with a .380-caliber pistol, killing him. Berkley claimed it was self-defense.
Whitemarsh was a Safeway manager and father of three. He died in the driver’s seat, still wearing his seat belt. Family described him as “a great friend, co-worker, dad, son and brother” in a statement in 2019.
Berkley told jurors that he couldn’t predict what Whitemarsh would do, so he shot him.
“It was not something I really wanted to do,” Berkley testified. “But I don’t think Steven Whitemarsh, with his behavior, left me a choice.”
The jury began deliberating in the late afternoon Wednesday and returned the guilty verdict Thursday. Berkley is expected to face 15 to 22 years behind bars, the prosecutor said. A sentencing hearing is set for April 16.
This case is similar to one involving Berkley nearly 30 years ago. The Seattle Times reported in 2019 that Berkley was charged with attempted murder and attempted manslaughter in California’s San Diego County in 1991 after prosecutors said he shot and partially paralyzed a driver who approached his car after a near-collision.
The jury ultimately acquitted Berkley, believing he thought his life was in danger. But in a rare statement, some jurors said they didn’t feel good about the case’s resolution and were concerned about Berkley having a gun in his car, according to a 1991 article published by The Los Angeles Times.
“You keep that gun out of your car,” the article quoted one juror as saying. “We didn’t feel that what you did was right at all, but we had to follow the law.”