A Sedgwick County jury on Thursday convicted a Wichita woman of involuntary manslaughter for firing a shot during a heated argument that went through a wall and killed a man.
The jury deliberated just over two hours before convicting Desiree Boone of the charge after rejecting prosecutors’ contention that she was guilty of second-degree murder.
Sentencing was set for May 31 by District Judge Terry Pullman.
Boone, 35, told the jury that her .40-caliber handgun discharged accidentally as she and her cousin, Adam Barney, argued in a home they were sharing at 1818 W. Mentor on Nov. 7, 2011.
She said the gun went off when she was hit by a plastic cigarette lighter that Barney threw at her. Wichita police said the bullet struck Earle Sullivan Jr., 47, in the head, killing him instantly.
Barney told the jury that he remembered throwing the lighter at Boone, but he said the gun discharged long after he threw it.
Prosecutors contended that Boone fired the shot intentionally and recklessly – elements that would constitute involuntary manslaughter under Kansas law. But they also contended that she acted with “extreme indifference to the value of human life” – elements that would elevate the crime to the level of second-degree murder.
Casey Cotton, Boone’s attorney, suggested to the jury that firing a gun into a crowd would amount to “extreme indifference to human life.” He said Boone’s actions were driven by a desire to protect herself and a toddler daughter she had with her.
Cotton said that on the day of the shooting, Barney had threatened Boone with a set of nunchucks. Cotton also said that Sullivan had a high level of meth in his system when he died, and he suggested that Barney, who was his friend, may also have been under the influence of the drug.
Barney testified that he was using marijuana on the day of the shooting, but he denied using meth. He also told the jury that he had nunchucks in his room, but that he had not used them to threaten Boone.
In his closing argument, prosecutor Tom Weilert said Boone could have easily defused the situation by leaving the house when the argument with her cousin grew heated.
“Would a reasonable person not gather her child, go to her car and leave?” he asked. “Her choice not to leave was not reasonable.”