Jury to decide if suicide attempt threatened others — (The Bozeman Daily Chronicle)

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The Bozeman Daily Chronicle



John Guinn told his wife, Susan, he planned to “go out in a blaze of glory.” He also alluded to suicide on more than one occasion.

But Susan Guinn never thought that “blaze” included hurting others, not even May 17 when the 41 year old carpet cleaner stood in the middle of Springhill Lane with a black semi automatic pistol pointed at his head, holding sheriff’s deputies at bay.

 “I was frightened he would hurt himself,” Susan Guinn testified Monday at her husband’s trial in Gallatin County District Court. “I, as a loving wife, did not want to see him hurt.”

Prosecutor Gary Balaz contends others were endangered by John Guinn’s actions that day while Guinn’s attorney, Helene Orenstein, says her client’s suicidal state made him unaccountable for his actions.

The state charges that Guinn is guilty of three acts of assault and one act of criminal endangerment, felonies that each carry a maximum 10 year prison sentence.

Guinn didn’t physically harm anyone, but a person can stop short of injuring someone else and still commit felony assault by causing reasonable apprehension of serious bodily injury under state law.

Guinn stirred that apprehension in the deputies who responded to his wife’s 911 call when he fired his gun in the air and refused to drop it when ordered to do so, Balaz said.

The prosecutor said Guinn also caused his wife apprehension before the police standoff by stepping onto the couple’s porch, firing five shots in the direction of a nearby subdivision and Riverside Country Club, then coming inside with the gun to his head and saying “I guess I’m next.”

Balaz couldn’t get Susan Guinn to agree with his assessment of the incident. Where he saw others in danger, she saw a suicide attempt staged outside their 602 Springhill Lane home.

The people in the subdivision and country club behind the house were probably out of range when her husband shot from their porch, she said. Susan Guinn said the deputies who responded to her 911 call knew what they were doing, so she wasn’t concerned for them. And she denied feeling personally threatened by her husband, deflating at least one assault charge him.

Others were in danger, Deputy Jason Jarrett testified.

Jarrett said a child on a bicycle coasted into the line of fire as he and Deputy Daniel Springer trained their rifles on Guinn. A car also managed to drive into the danger zone before other officers arrived and managed to clear the area and evacuated nearby homes. It was about 2 p.m.

John Guinn pointed his gun skyward, fired once, then aimed at his head and shouted at deputies to back off or he’d kill himself, Jarrett said.

Two hours earlier Guinn was drinking alcohol and fuming about problems at work, his wife testified. His thoughts apparently turned to suicide as they had a year before, when troubled by job problems, Guinn gathered up a vile of Prozac and a 12 pack of beer then headed to the woods. He only passed out that time, Susan Guinn said.

This time, with the undivided attention of deputies, John Guinn demanded the presence of Gallatin County Sheriff Bill Slaughter, then surrendered a short time later.

Guinn’s defense that he should have been treated not as a criminal but as someone suffering from suicidal tendencies ended abruptly Tuesday when Balaz objected to witnesses for the defense. The prosecutor objected because the defense attorney failed to reveal her full line of defense before trial.

District Judge Michael Salvagni agreed with Balaz and Guinn’s defense ended with only a few general comments about suicide from a mental health professional.

A six man, six woman jury will receive the case to decide today following closing arguments from Orenstein and Balaz.