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Court upholds life sentence against woman who shot, killed man in wheelchair

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A Richmond County woman claimed she shot a man in a wheelchair multiple times and left him to die out of self-defense.

But on Monday, the Supreme Court of Georgia rejected her claim and upheld her murder conviction and life sentence.

Judy Lynn Washington claimed she shot Steve Mikel in self-defense after he assaulted her the night before in July 2011, according to federal court record.

That night Washington, 52, and Mikel, 45, had gotten into a heated argument and a witness said that Mikel, a paraplegic who was wheelchair-bound, held Washington in a headlock and hit her repeatedly, officials said. During the assault, Washington threatened to shoot Mikel if she had a gun.

Prosecutors said she made good on her promise in the early morning hours of July 31, 2011.

Washington was sitting outside on the porch of a home, socializing with a group of people, when Mikel approached Washington, saying he wanted to apologize for what happened the night before, the report showed. At the same time, he picked up Washington’s purse.

She refused to speak to him after telling him to put down her purse, officials said. As he continued holding her purse, witnesses said Washington reached into her shirt, pulled out a .22-caliber gun and fired at Mikel, who fell out of his wheelchair, according to the court report.

As he tried to get up, Washington went over to him and fired a second shot while he was on the ground, the report showed. She continued to fire three more times and Mikel tried to get up after each shot, except the last one.

He died from multiple gunshot wounds to the chest and abdomen, officials said. When she was done, Washington put things into her purse, fixed her ponytail, and walked away from the scene, according to briefs filed in the case.

As she made her way down the street, she threw the revolver in the front yard of a nearby residence, officials said. After canvassing the area and speaking to witnesses, officers said they found Washington a short time later and arrested her for murder.

At her trial in January 2012, Washington’s attorney claimed the shooting was in self-defense. The attorney told the jury that no one had come to Washington’s aid the night before when Mikel had been beating her, and when he refused to put down her purse, Washington was afraid he was going to repeat the violence, the court documents showed.

But the jury rejected the defense and so did the Supreme Court.

“The evidence was ample to enable the jury to find Washington guilty of all the crimes for which she had been charged,” Justice Harold Melton writes in today’s opinion. “The jury was authorized to reject the claim of self-defense and conclude that Washington shot Mikel repeatedly without provocation.”

Washington was convicted of murder, aggravated battery and weapons charges. She was sentenced to life plus five years in prison.