Douglas S. Chanthabouly will go on trial next week in the shooting death of a fellow student at Tacoma's Foss High School.
Pierce County Superior Court Judge Ronald Culpepper set the stage for the trial Thursday by denying a motion from Chanthabouly's defense attorneys to have their client declared not guilty by reason of insanity in the death of Samnang Kok, 17.
Evidence produced over a three-day sanity hearing showed Chanthabouly, 20, knew what he was doing was wrong when he pulled out a pistol and shot Kok in a hallway before first bell on Jan. 3, 2007, Culpepper said in open court.
"I conclude Mr. Chanthabouly was able to tell right from wrong with reference to the particular act: The shooting of Mr. Kok, " Culpepper said.
Defense attorneys John McNeish and John Chin had argued that Chanthabouly was suffering from delusions brought on by paranoid schizophrenia on the day of the shooting and shouldn't be held criminally responsible for Kok's death.
They called an Oregon psychiatrist to the stand Wednesday to bolster that contention.
Dr. Paul Leung testified that Chanthabouly was under the delusion that Kok was part of a gang intent on hurting him and that he shot the boy as a form of self-defense. There has been no evidence presented in the case that Kok was in a gang.
Deputy prosecutors Fred Wist and Ed Murphy conceded that Chanthabouly has a mental illness and might have been delusional that day. But they contended that his actions before and after the shooting showed he still knew it was wrong to kill Kok.
The defendant ran away after the killing, initially denied shooting Kok and lied to police about his whereabouts that morning, they argued.
Culpepper said those arguments helped him to make up his mind.
"He did a number of things to try to conceal his involvement, which is consistent with him knowing he's in trouble for breaking the law, that he did something wrong, " he said.
Culpepper also pointed to testimony from police that Chanthabouly asked whether Washington state still had the death penalty, and at one point referred to Kok's death as "the murder" while being interrogated at police headquarters.
McNeish and Chin still can argue to a jury that Chanthabouly was insane when he shot Kok and therefore not guilty of murdering him.
To prove that case, they would have to convince jurors that Chanthabouly was mentally ill at the time and either didn't understand the "nature and quality of his actions" or didn't know right from wrong.
If acquitted by reason of insanity, Chanthabouly would be committed to Western State Hospital, possibly for the rest of his life. If convicted as charged, he faces up to 31 years in prison. Jury selection is set to begin Monday.