An Allegheny County jury found a 21-year-old man guilty of involuntary manslaughter in the shooting death of his friend.
Instead, Common Pleas Judge Kevin G. Sasinoski ruled Thursday that the jury would not be able to consider the charge of third-degree homicide because Assistant District Attorney Edward Scheid had not shown malice.
Seth Dillon, 21, of North Versailles was charged with killing his friend Shawn Januck of Wilmerding on April 6.
The two were guests at the home of two other teens in Wilmerding that evening. All four were friends.
According to testimony in the case, Mr. Dillon, who had just turned 21, had gotten a 9 mm handgun a few days before the shooting and took it with him to show off to his friends.
Before passing it around the group, which included Mr. Januck, Mr. Dillon unloaded the gun and took out the clip. He claimed in an interview with police afterward he then left the gun on the kitchen table and left the house for about 20 minutes.
When he returned, he picked up the gun, he said, and it discharged. Mr. Januck was hit in the head and died instantly.
Mr. Dillon told police he did not know the gun was loaded.
There was testimony that Mr. Dillon panicked, tried to keep his friends from calling 911 and suggested that they lie and say someone broke into the house and killed Mr. Januck.
Defense attorney Patrick Thomassey argued to the judge Thursday that no one testified there was any animus between Mr. Dillon and the victim, and that murder could not be an option for the jurors to consider.
"Even the witnesses called by the commonwealth said it was an accident," he said. "Nobody said he pointed the gun at anybody. There's absolute absence of malice."
Judge Sasinoski agreed.
Paula Ward: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-2620.