PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — A jury on Wednesday acquitted an Oregon man who was charged with murdering his wife after what he described as a suicide pact left her dead and him wounded.
The Portland couple had signed a suicide note outlining their reasons for wanting to die on March 2, 2013.
Multnomah County jurors deliberated less than a day before returning their verdict in the trial of Lloyd Erp. He and his wife, Lori, each suffered two bullet wounds to the head.
The 58-year-old man spent more than two years in jail awaiting disposition of his case, The Oregonian reported (http://is.gd/XEwOu7).
A jury deadlocked in an earlier trial and a mistrial was declared.
Lloyd Erp testified that his 52-year-old wife shot herself before he took the rifle and tried to kill himself.
A defense lawyer told jurors the Erps were deeply in love, but suffered health problems, addictions to painkillers and were facing foreclosure on their home and homelessness because neither was making any income.
Prosecutor Tom Cleary told jurors during closing arguments they needed to follow Oregon law, which said that if they believed Lloyd Erp fired the fatal shots, they must find him guilty of murder.
"This is not a Death With Dignity case," the prosecutor said.
The judge told jurors that Oregon law doesn't define murder as assisting another in committing suicide. An example of that might be handing someone a loaded gun. The law does define murder as committing the actual killing, the judge said -- actually pulling the trigger even if the person wanted to die.
Dr. Christopher Young, deputy state medical examiner, testified that he determined Lori Erp didn't shoot herself but died by homicidal violence.
A defense expert, Dr. Michael Propst, said it's unclear whether the woman died by her own hand. Propst is a former medical examiner from Alaska.
"People who are murdered in their sleep by their husbands don't leave suicide notes," defense lawyer Kasia Rutledge.
Lloyd Erp testified that he misses his wife terribly —and some days still wants to die.
A friend in California has offered him a place to stay, the newspaper said.
Information from: The Oregonian, http://www.oregonlive.com