Our View: Charges should be changed – again
November 1, 2005
We don’t profess to hold the same knowledge of the law as judges or lawyers, but a decision last week by Placer County Superior Court Judge James Dawson to reduce a murder charge against a Truckee man accused of killing another man leaves us baffled.Timothy Brooks allegedly stabbed and killed Robert Ash outside a Tahoe City eatery on Aug. 17, a half-hour after Ash reportedly cut off Brooks on Highway 89 near Squaw Valley. After the “road-rage” incident on the highway, Brooks, accompanied by his wife, tracked down Ash, who was eating a bagel at an outside cafe.Words were exchanged, a scuffle ensued and then Ash was on the ground with what would end up as a fatal stab wound to his abdomen.Brooks was in handcuffs a short time later and then, after Ash died in a Reno hospital, was charged with murder.While due process obviously has to take its course, to us the murder charge appeared justified. Brooks, accompanied by another adult, spent a half hour looking for Ash after the unpleasant encounter on the highway.Thirty minutes after searching, Brooks’ antagonist was mortally wounded with a five-inch knife.Yes, common sense would say a murder charge is right on target. But Judge Dawson didn’t think so. Brooks now faces a charge of voluntary manslaughter. Dawson said he felt there had not been malicious forethought on Brooks’ part to constitute a murder charge.Apparently the Placer County DA’s office is contemplating re-filing murder charges against Brooks. We’ll have to wait until the next court date on Nov. 15 to find that out. But we think it should be done because a voluntary manslaughter charge – which is applied in a case where a killing happens in the “heat of passion” with no prior intention to kill, according to online legal resource Find Law – seems a stretch in a case where Brooks, with a knife in his pocket, had plenty of time to re-think his actions.Thirty minutes is a long time to mull over all the terrible things one person could inflict on another. It’s also long enough, we believe, to get a grip and get on with life instead of taking one.