Crime

Man accused of shooting mother's boyfriend is found guilty of murder

John Danner, center, was found guilty of second-degree murder Monday, Sept. 28, 2015. His lawyer, Dave Vogel, is at left.
John Danner, center, was found guilty of second-degree murder Monday, Sept. 28, 2015. His lawyer, Dave Vogel, is at left. jjohnston@thetribunenews.com

John Steven Danner sat silently with his head down as jurors found him guilty of second-degree murder Monday afternoon in the shooting death of Billy Don Law.

Danner, 25, was accused of shooting Law to death in the early morning hours of Feb. 7, 2014, and claimed it was self-defense. Jurors found he did not premeditate the killing and rejected a charge of first-degree murder.

Following the verdict, members of Law's family cried and hugged outside the courtroom, as did Danner's. Danner's mother, Christine Ruda, sobbed in a family member's arms and said, "Johnny's gone."

Danner faces 15 years to life in prison for second-degree murder and an additional 25 years to life for using a firearm.

David Vogel, Danner's attorney, attempted to console Danner's family outside the courthouse, and said he was "surprised and disappointed" by the verdict.

"This is very disappointing," Vogel said. "I thought (the jury was) asking good questions, and that gave me some hope."

Assistant District Attorney Lee Cunningham said he was "totally satisfied" by the verdict and praised the jury for interpreting a "complex area of law."

The jury had been in deliberations since Wednesday afternoon. Jury foreman Tom Tengdin provided a prepared statement explaining the jury's conclusion.

"Mr. Danner may have believed he was acting in self-defense," the statement reads. "However, the evidence presented and the instructions as to the law did not support that finding."

On Monday morning, jurors asked Superior Court Judge Michael Duffy for clarification on the law as it pertains to self-defense, Tengdin said.

Danner admitted that he shot Law 13 times with a .45-caliber Glock handgun in a darkened living room after threatening to shoot Law if he didn’t leave Danner’s mother alone. His mother had come to her son’s defense after Law became enraged that Danner and a roommate were burning garbage in the backyard.

According to Ruda’s testimony, she and Law began an intense argument. Although he never struck her, Ruda said Law began kicking and using his foot to shove her off the bed they shared. Danner heard this from outside and thought Law was harming his mother.

He retrieved two handguns from his bedroom, and as he was passing through the living room to walk outside, he heard his mother scream. He then yelled out to Law, who came “charging” at him in the dark, Danner testified.

Danner is scheduled to be sentenced Oct. 27.

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