A King County jury this morning convicted a Lynnwood man of first-degree murder for a fatal shooting on a downtown Seattle sidewalk in October 2010.
Jurors had been deliberating since after lunch yesterday — a total of about three hours — before finding Tomas Afeworki guilty of the premeditated murder of 31-year-old Michael Yohannes on Oct. 26, 2010. Afeworki, who had represented himself during the trial, showed no reaction when the verdict was read.
Because the conviction is his third strike, Afeworki faces life in prison when he is sentenced Aug. 30.
When Superior Court Judge Laura Middaugh asked whether he wanted a court-appointed attorney to help him prepare for his sentencing hearing, Aferworki stroked his chin, looked at the clock and said he’d “get back to” her.
According to police, Yohannes and a friend bumped into Afeworki near Westlake Center and spoke with him briefly before continuing north. Yohannes and his friend stood on the northwest corner of Second Avenue and Pike Street, waiting with other pedestrians for the light to change, when Afeworki approached him from behind, pulled out a gun draped in a white towel and shot Yohannes in the head, police said.
Police allege Afeworki walked to a restaurant and went inside a restroom, where officers later found three live rounds in the toilet bowl and a 9mm handgun hidden beneath the liner of a trash can.
Police officers converged outside the restaurant and arrested Afeworki.
A clear motive for the shooting was never established.
During the trial, Afeworki tried to convince the jury — from the witness stand and then in his closing arguments — that a slew of Seattle police officers and crime-scene investigators planted evidence and then lied about it. He also claimed the deputy prosecutor and judge involved in his case trashed his due-process rights to railroad an innocent man.
“Ladies and gentlemen, the truth is stranger than fiction,” Afeworki said in closing arguments Wednesday morning. “This has been the most terrifying chapter of my life … I am furious because I know I’m innocent.”
Afeworki said Seattle police are “no different than a gang” and prosecutors are “immune, they’re untouchable” and are motivated by “political ambitions.” He also took a jab at Judge Middaugh, saying “there’s no fair play in this court.”
The jury of seven men and five women, however, didn’t buy into what Deputy Prosecutor Don Raz called Afeworki’s “grand conspiracy.”