COEUR d’ALENE — The Rathdrum man involved in a fatal altercation outside a downtown Coeur d’Alene bar last spring pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter Tuesday in a hastily gathered hearing in First District Court.
Before entering a guilty plea, Tyler Finlay apologized to the victim’s family, and his own family, calling the punch he threw that took the life of Jeffrey Marfice, 29, an accident.
Finlay is accused of striking Marfice around 1:30 a.m. June 18 outside a Fourth Street tavern. Marfice was transported by ambulance to Kootenai Health with a head injury and died the next day. Police said Finlay was harassing three women including Marfice’s girlfriend and the mother of his 6-year-old when Marfice stepped in to help the women.
“What I did was an accident,” Finlay said. “I’m horribly sorry.”
The plea change was meant to avoid more pain for the families and friends involved, he said.
“It’s been hard on everybody,” the 21-year-old said. “I want to take the pressure off on both sides.”
The hearing, which was penciled into District Judge John Mitchell’s afternoon docket earlier in the day, came less than a week before a 10-day jury trial was set to begin.
Finlay, who was out of custody since posting bond last summer, appeared at the hearing wearing a shirt and slacks. Deputy prosecutor Donna Gardner however asked the court to take the Rathdrum High School graduate back into custody as a way to protect the community during the holidays.
She noted Finlay had two previous DUIs, and that he was on probation when the incident occurred. Gardner said since being charged Finlay had turned in a dirty urine sample as part of a drug and alcohol monitoring program that was a condition of his probation.
Despite a plea from Sean Walsh, Finlay’s counsel, who argued that his client had no more dirty UAs since just after his arrest last June, and that he had massive family support, Mitchell ordered the defendant to go to jail.
His concern was for the community and for Finlay, who suffered from depression, Mitchell said.
It may seem counterintuitive, Mitchell said, “but in jail I know you will be watched and not be given the opportunity to harm yourself.”
The charge carries a penalty of up to 15 years in prison and a $15,000 fine. More than 40 of Finlay’s relatives and friends appeared at the afternoon hearing.