A Washington state man found guilty of first-degree murder and other charges in September stemming from a 2012 Eldersburg shooting was sentenced to life in prison with the possibility for parole Tuesday in Carroll County Circuit Court.
Jacob Bircher, 25, was found guilty of shooting and killing 36-year-old David Garrett, of Sykesville, in July 2012 outside of the Harvest Inn on Liberty Road in Eldersburg. Sykesville resident Gary Hale Jr., 26, was also shot in the arm, but survived.
Bircher's defense had argued that firing all 13 rounds from his glock pistol into a crowd of people standing outside the bar was done in self-defense and that he did not intend to kill anyone.
Circuit Judge J. Barry Hughes on Tuesday acknowledged Bircher's "unfortunate" childhood, in which he endured physical and sexual abuse, but said the worst decision he ever made was to purchase a handgun with his known substance abuse and mental issues.
"You turned out to be the danger in the community," Hughes said, referring to Bircher's claim that friends and family had told him living near Baltimore was dangerous.
Bircher will have to serve a minimum of 50 percent of his sentence before he can be considered for parole.
A 12-member jury found Bircher, who moved from Washington to Carroll County about three months before the shooting to be with his girlfriend, guilty of first-degree murder and other charges following a two week trial.
Defense attorney Robert Bonsib, of Greenbelt based firm MarcusBonsib L.L.C. had filed for a new trial, arguing that the court had made a mistake in instructing the jury during its deliberations.
Bonsib said the court's instruction when the jury asked for clarification on transferred intent undermined the defense's argument and credibility.
"It simply put us in an untenable position," he said.
Hughes denied the defense's request.
The Carroll County State's Attorney's Office argued throughout the trial that Bircher's intent was to kill everyone standing outside the bar when he fired 13 rounds into the crowd.
"That evening could have been a lot worse," Chief Deputy State's Attorney Allan Culver said.
The State's Attorney's Office had requested life without parole for the charges against Bircher.
Bonsib argued Tuesday that life sentences are reserved for the most egregious and "unspontaneous" events.
He said that Bircher did not arrive at the Harvest Inn with the intent of what would later happen.
Bircher's mother and grandmother attending the sentencing giving tearful testimonies that Bircher was a "hard working and honest man" who is a role model to his two younger sisters.
"He is extremely sorry for what all families have gone through," Bircher's grandmother, Jennifer Henslee, said. "No one can change what happened. We all lost."
Speaking to the court briefly Tuesday, Bircher said he truly regrets everything that happened before apologizing to the Garrett and Hale families and his family members.
"There are no words to truly express how sorry I am," he said.