Log in Newsletter

Former judge says deputy who shot Jason Walker may never be charged

If what she knows about the case is accurate, Mary Ann Tally said she thinks deputy Jeffrey Hash could escape charges under a law amended in 2011 that gives people the legal right to use deadly force if someone is forcibly and unlawfully trying to break into their occupied vehicle


It’s approaching two months since off-duty sheriff’s deputy Jeffrey Hash shot and killed Jason Walker after police say Walker inexplicably jumped onto the hood of Hash’s pickup truck, tore off a windshield wiper and used it to break Hash’s windshield.

The protests following Walker’s death on Jan. 8 have subsided. Prominent U.S. civil rights lawyer Ben Crump, who has agreed to take on Walker’s case, has returned home for now. The State Bureau of Investigation continues to look into the shooting. Hash remains uncharged, a free man on paid administrative leave from the Cumberland County Sheriff’s Office. Hash has been with the Sheriff’s Office for 17 years.

Walker was shot in the street, near his home on Bingham Drive. Since then, protesters have marched down city streets calling for “Justice for Jason.” Some question why Hash has not been charged and whether he has gotten special treatment because he is a law officer.

“We have reason to believe that this was a case of ‘shoot first, ask later,’ a philosophy seen all too often within law enforcement,” news outlets have quoted Crump as saying.

Parrish Hayes Daughtry, the Dunn lawyer who is representing Hash, said she would like to discuss the case but she is barred by law from doing so.

Mary Ann Tally, a retired Cumberland County Superior Court judge, said she isn’t surprised that Daughtry was chosen to represent Hash. Tally said Daughtry has a lot of experience trying self-defense cases.

Years ago, Tally said, Daughtry used what was then a new amendment to North Carolina’s Castle Doctrine to defend a woman who shot and killed her former boyfriend.

Tally said the boyfriend had been stalking the woman all night, and she shot him when he tried to unlawfully and forcibly enter her car while she was in it. The case was tried in Harnett County.

Tally said Daughtry anchored her case on a 2011 amendment to the state’s Castle Doctrine, which gives people the legal right to defend themselves with deadly force if someone is unlawfully and forcibly breaking into their occupied homes. The amendment extended the doctrine to include motor vehicles.

Daughtry believes the case was the first in the state to be heard using the revised law as a defense.

The revision was so new when it came up in Tally’s court in 2015 that the judge didn’t even know it existed.

But Daughtry did.

“Parrish was all over the law,” Tally said. “She knew it. When I arrived there, I said, ‘What are we doing?’ And she stands up and says ‘my client is not guilty because she was defending her vehicle.’ I said, ‘Do what?’ ’’

Tally said she immediately got out her law book to review the changes in the statute and later instructed the jury that the Castle Doctrine now applies to motor vehicles as well as homes. The woman was acquitted and her records were later expunged.

Daughtry said she tried at least two other murder cases that same year that used the revised Castle Doctrine as a defense. Both of those cases also led to acquittals and expungements, she said.

Although she couldn’t speak directly about Hash’s case, Daughtry said “if there were charges, I believe it would involve issues of self-defense, defense of others, defense of vehicle, and all of that is under that new law.”

Tally said she won’t be surprised if charges aren’t filed against Hash.

“I don't know what the investigation is going to show,” she said. “All I know is what I have read in the paper. But if what's in the paper is accurate, and that's a big if… I think it may well be that the deputy is not charged at all. And that there will not be a trial.”

Billy West, Cumberland County’s district attorney, has recused himself from the case to avoid any potential appearance of a conflict of interest. West referred the case to the state’s Conference of District Attorneys, which will decide if a trial is warranted after reviewing the SBI’s investigative reports and recommendations. 

John Rubin, a professor of Public Law and Government in the UNC School of Government, has been studying and writing about self-defense laws for decades. In 1996, Rubin published a book, “The Law of Self-Defense in North Carolina.” He continues to teach criminal law at UNC and writes occasional blogs about self-defense issues and laws.

Rubin said the so-called stand your ground statute is a rephrasing of a principle part of North Carolina law that says a person does not have a duty to retreat before using “the appropriate amount of force.”

“Stand your ground is a more aggressive and, I think, potentially confusing rephrasing of that principle,” he said. “I think it may suggest to some people that they can stand their ground and use any amount of force when they're faced with some kind of threat of harm.”

Rubin declined to speak specifically about the Walker shooting or whether the stand your ground law could be used as a defense for Hash.

Speaking in general terms, Rubin said, “a person cannot use deadly force to prevent mere damage to property because … there isn't a threat to life there. A person can't use deadly force to defend against a nondeadly assault.”

Fayetteville police say Hash told them Walker jumped on the hood of his pickup truck, snapped off a windshield wiper and used it to break the windshield. Police say Hash’s wife and child were in the truck with him.

So could the defense argue that Walker was trying to break into Hash’s truck and that deadly force was justifiable?

Rubin said the law states that a person can reasonably fear that someone breaking into his occupied home or vehicle intends to use deadly force.

“Forcibly and unlawfully entering, or breaking in – the shorthand – is key to this presumption that the person responding feared a deadly threat,” he said. “Again, these are very fact-dependent cases. What would a reasonable person perceive the other person as doing?”

Rubin said deadly force could still be justified in certain cases even if a person is not forcibly or unlawfully trying to enter a home, workplace or vehicle, provided there is a reasonable expectation of serious bodily harm or death.

“If somebody has a gun, that gun by its nature is a deadly weapon,” Rubin said. “Other objects are not deadly but if they’re used in a deadly way they could be considered deadly. A baseball bat for baseball is not deadly, but if it's used as a club, then it becomes deadly.”

Police say Walker was not armed. But could a windshield wiper be construed as a deadly weapon? 

That question may have to be resolved by a special prosecutor for the Conference of Defense Attorneys, or, if charges are filed, by a court of law.

Daughtry said she has not heard how the SBI’s investigation is progressing or when it might report to the Conference of District Attorneys.

In the meantime, she said, Hash is doing OK.

“He has been devastated about all of this personally, for himself and the victim's family and his family and professionally is not able to work right now.” she said. “He's holding it together and doing the best he can under the circumstances.”

Greg Barnes is an investigative reporter for CityView TODAY. He can be reached at gregbarnes401@gmail.com. Have a news tip? Email news@CityViewTODAY.com.

Jason Walker, Jeffrey Hash, off-duty deputy, fatal shooting, Fayetteville, Cumberland County Sheriff's Office, State Bureau of Investigation, investigation