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Originally published Tuesday, May 20, 2008 at 12:00 AM

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Killer of Seattle officer in 1994 admits guilt

A Seattle man already serving a 27-year prison sentence for the 1994 slaying of Seattle police Officer Antonio Terry pleaded guilty Monday...

Seattle Times staff reporter

A Seattle man already serving a 27-year prison sentence for the 1994 slaying of Seattle police Officer Antonio Terry pleaded guilty Monday to first-degree murder for the same crime.

Quentin Ervin, 31, was serving time for a second-degree-murder conviction when the case was refiled as aggravated first-degree murder and attempted first-degree murder after King County prosecutors last year were given a green light to pursue the more serious charges by a state Supreme Court decision.

Dressed in a red jail jumpsuit and Air Jordan sneakers, Ervin admitted his guilt in a courtroom filled with Terry's relatives as well as current and retired Seattle police officers.

Ervin pleaded guilty to the first-degree-murder charge, and in exchange prosecutors reduced the charge from aggravated murder and dropped an attempted-murder charge. Sentencing is set for May 27.

Senior Deputy Prosecutor Scott O'Toole said his office is recommending a 20-year sentence. But because Ervin will receive credit for time served and time off for good behavior in prison, he likely will be freed within six years, O'Toole said.

"It's very sad," Yvonne Terry, the slain officer's sister, said after the hearing. "It's not a resolution."

On June 4, 1994, Terry stopped to help Ervin and his friend Eric Smiley, whose vehicle had broken down on an Interstate 5 offramp. Terry was in plainclothes when he was fatally shot with a bullet prosecutors said came from a gun fired either by Ervin or Smiley.

"To this day we don't know who fired the fatal shot," O'Toole said after Monday's hearing.

Smiley was convicted of first-degree murder in 1997 and was sentenced to 33 years in prison.

Ervin originally faced three separate charges: aggravated first-degree murder, attempted first-degree murder and second-degree felony murder — based on the commission of an assault during the crime.

A jury was required to deliberate each charge individually. According to the jurors' instructions, if they couldn't agree or found Ervin not guilty on one charge, they were to move on to the next, less serious charge. If they reached a guilty verdict for any charge, they were to stop.

Unable to come to a verdict on aggravated first-degree murder and then on the attempted first-degree-murder charge after five weeks of deliberation, jurors convicted Ervin in 1996 of second-degree felony murder.

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But in 2002, a Supreme Court ruling known as the Andress decision nullified Ervin's conviction by throwing out the law that covered the felony-murder crime. In Andress, the justices said that an assault leading to an unintended death cannot be a murder but instead must be prosecuted as manslaughter.

The state decided to retry him on the first two charges — aggravated first-degree and attempted first-degree murder.

Ervin's attorney argued that would be double jeopardy and was not allowed under state and federal laws, which prohibit people from being prosecuted twice for the same offense if they have been acquitted of the crime or if they have a conviction that remains in place.

The state Supreme Court in December 2006 ruled prosecutors could retry Ervin on the two charges.

O'Toole said Monday that a guilty plea is the best possible option for Ervin as well as for Terry's family.

"The concern here was finality and closure. There was a desire by the family to see this over," O'Toole said. "It's a decision that makes sense for him [Ervin]."

Jennifer Sullivan: 206-464-8294 or jensullivan@seattletimes.com

Information from Seattle Times archives is included in this report.

Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company

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