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Judge

Judge

will rule in shooting case

Robert Mark Liles, a 60-year-old Shady Cove logger, shot and killed his best friend's son two years ago.

That much is not in dispute.

What's in dispute is whether Liles did it because he had delusions that 28-year-old Charles Earl May was going to kill Liles' family ' a delusion caused by brain damage worsened by the beer and whiskey he consumed that night ' or he did it because he fell on a trailer hitch and blamed May for not catching him.

That's up to Jackson County Judge Daniel Harris to decide.

After four days of a nonjury trial and closing arguments, Harris took the case under advisement Monday. He will give a verdict at 11 a.m. today.

Liles faces charges of first-degree manslaughter, second-degree manslaughter and criminally negligent homicide. After the prosecution rested its case Monday, Harris acquitted Liles of the most serious of the charges he had faced: murder. Harris said Liles judgment was impaired at the time of the shooting and he did not form an intent to commit the act of murder.

Liles' defense attorneys, Carl Caplan and Jeni Feinberg, are arguing that Liles should be found guilty only of criminally negligent homicide, the least of the charges. Additionally, they asked the judge to find Liles guilty, but insane, meaning because of a mental defect, he didn't have the ability to follow the law.

On Nov. 13, 2000, people including May were drinking at the Liles' home on Indian Creek Road in Shady Cove. According to testimony and attorneys' closing arguments, at some point during the evening, Liles fell and hit a trailer hitch. He got angry at May, who was with him, and actually tried to pull a knife on the younger man. But May just took it from him and handed it back, saying Liles needed to get to bed. Then May drove Liles up to his room, which was in a building up the road.

But instead of going to bed, Liles got his shotgun and loaded it. He put a few more shotgun shells into his pocket. May was talking on the phone to his wife, Shanna, when Liles returned.

Shanna May only heard May say Bob and then heard a boom.

There was another shot.

Deputy District Attorney John Bondurant said Liles first shot May in the throat as he sat on the couch and after May had stumbled and fallen in the hallway, Liles shot him again at point blank range.

Liles' attorneys believe the shots may have occurred differently. Liles testified he can't remember.

After the shooting, Liles told his own son he had done it to protect the family.

The act cannot be explained simply as a response to anger, Feinberg said. He believed he had to shoot Charlie to save his family.

She said that Liles thought of May like a son. Liles' daughter, Kristin Liles, said she even felt jealousy over the close relationship.

Bondurant, though, said Liles only made up that story.

He was pissed off that Charlie didn't catch him when he hit the trailer hitch, he said. For whatever reason, this defendant stewed about that and his inhibitions were virtually gone because of alcohol consumption.

During the course of the trial, an expert witness testified that Liles' blood alcohol was .19 percent, more than twice the legal limit to drive, when he shot May. A number of other expert witnesses were flown in from around the country and Canada to testify to Liles' mental state and abilities.

Liles' attorneys claimed the logger suffered a brain injury and several experts backed that up with tests and brain scans. Feinberg said that's why Liles believed his friend wanted to kill him.

But Bondurant called one of the defense's expert witnesses a snake oil salesman. He brought other witnesses with other opinions. And in his closing, he pointed out that the defense never produced any medical reports that showed treatment for the brain injury.

He said the judge should find Liles guilty of first-degree manslaughter:

Reach reporter Dani Dodge at 776-4471, or e-mail