Deschutes Co. jury acquits Luke Wirkkala in murder retrial

A Deschutes County jury has acquitted a Bend man on trial a second time for killing his friend after a party in 2013.

Luke Wirkkala had been previously convicted of shooting to death David Ryder and sentenced to life in prison, but the conviction was overturned on appeal because police continued to interrogate him after he asked for an attorney.

Closing arguments happened Friday and on Monday, after a two-week trial at a makeshift courtroom at the Deschutes County Fairgrounds, the jury voted 10-2 for acquittal.

Wirkkala admitted he shot Ryder in the neck with a 12-gauge shotgun after a Super Bowl party.

On the witness stand, Wirkkala described passing out after a night of heavy drinking and waking up to find Ryder on top of him, trying to pull off his clothes.

Wirkkala told the jury he went to his bedroom for a shotgun, then confronted Ryder in the living room. 

“It was just like an instinctual, automatic reaction,” Wirkkala said last week during the trial. “It’s not something I planned or thought about. It was just my response in self-defense, in that split second.”

Wirkkala’s attorney called the shooting a reasonable use of force and pointed to family and friends speaking to Wirkkala’s character.

“They all have one thing to say about Mr. Wirkkala and one thing only. He was a peaceful guy,” said Thaddeus Betz, Wirkkala’s attorney.

The prosecutor questioned Wirkkala’s actions, including grabbing the shotgun and confronting Ryder after safely retreating to the bedroom.

He said he feared for the safety of other asleep in the house, but admitted he did not call out to wake or warn them.

On the final day of the retrial on Friday, Wirkkala’s attorney completed his argument that the shooting happened in self-defense.

The state said Ryder’s death was not justified since Wirkkala retreated to his bedroom after an alleged sexual assault from Ryder then came back out to the living room to confront him again.

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