Clinch sentenced to life in prison without possibility of parole

Monday, December 14, 2009 | 6:09 p.m. CST; updated 9:02 p.m. CST, Monday, December 14, 2009

COLUMBIA — Boone County Circuit Judge Gary Oxenhandler sentenced William Clinch on Monday afternoon to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Clinch, 39, was convicted Oct. 25 of first-degree murder in the death of his former brother-in-law, Jeremy Bohannon. First-degree murder carries a mandatory sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole. Clinch shot Bohannon four times on Sept. 2, 2007, in the parking lot of the McDonald’s on Clark Lane.

The defense tried to portray Bohannon as violent and the shooting as one of self-defense. Clinch testified during the trial that he feared Bohannon might kill his sister, Amanda Clinch, and her children. Bohannon and Clinch's sister had been separated for about a year before the shooting.

But in his instructions to the jury, Oxenhandler used the word "imminence," meaning the jury needed to determine that the threat to Clinch's family was immediate in order to find that the murder was one of self-defense.

Clinch's defense team has argued that Missouri's self-defense law only requires a "reasonable belief" of the threat of a forcible felony, not imminent threat.

Boone County Prosecutor Dan Knight said during his closing argument that the threat must be "right here and now," in order for the murder to be considered self-defense, according to previous Missourian reports.

The case was originally assigned to Boone County Circuit Court Judge Gene Hamilton. When Hamilton said he would not include the word “imminent” with the word “threat” in the jury instruction, Knight dropped the charges against Clinch. He then filed them again the same day, and the case was assigned to Oxenhandler.

Boone County Public Defender Jennifer Bukowsky filed a motion for a new trial that lists what she calls "65 trial court errors." She said Oxenhandler's use of the word "imminence" in the jury instructions is one of the primary points of the appeal.

"The word 'imminence' doesn't apply," she said. "The action would have to be reasonable, but the word 'imminence' doesn't apply when it comes to a forcible felony in the defense of another person."

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