In August of 2021, the jury returned a verdict in the murder trial for David Bogdanov. Jurors deliberated for two days before returning a verdict. Bogdanov was ultimately found guilty for second-degree murder in the death of 17-year-old Nikki Kuhnhausen. The jury also found him guilty of a second charge of malicious harassment, Washington’s hate crime charge. During Bogdanov’s sentencing hearing, the judge sentenced him to the top end of the sentencing range at nearly 20 years in prison.
As Nikki’s family and friends struggled to move forward after her murder, they went on to push for an important change in Washington state law. They advocated for what became known as “Nikki’s Law,” which eliminated the so-called ‘panic’ defense in Washington. The ‘panic’ defense is a legal strategy where a defendant blames a violent act, such as murder, on a victim’s gender identity or sexual orientation. In essence, they claim that the discovery excuses their loss of self-control and rage. Therefore, they argue they can’t be held responsible for their violent reaction.
The panic defense is rarely used but can be effective for defendants in criminal trials. For context, Bogdanov didn’t use this strategy, as he claimed self-defense. Still, Nikki’s loved ones wanted to prevent any defendant from being able to use the ‘panic’ defense in the future.
In the spring of 2020, lawmakers in the Washington Legislature debated the bill. It overwhelmingly passed the House and Senate and went on to Governor Jay Inslee for signing. On March 5, 2020, ‘Nikki’s Law’ became official in the state of Washington. The ‘panic’ defense has been banned in 16 states plus the District of Columbia. Legislation to ban the defense has been introduced, but not passed, in 12 other states.
Listen to episode six of Should Be Alive: