Derek Carlile occupies a prominent place in the IGOTD Hall Of Eternal Infamy. We’ve been following his case for nearly two years, ever since the off-duty police officer left a loaded handgun in his van’s cup holder, as well as two unattended children. His three year-old son grabbed the gun and killed his own seven-year-old sister with it. For a time it looked as if justice would be done in the wake of this easily preventable and entirely inexcusable tragedy. Carlile was fired from his job with the Marysville Police Department, and he was put on trial for 2nd Degree Manslaughter. But then everything went wrong . . .
The Snohomish county prosecutor couldn’t prove the manslaughter charge, and the jury deadlocked. Instead of re-trying the case or adding a lesser-included charge of Reckless Endangerment to the indictment, the prosecutor did Carlile a ‘solid’ and dismissed the case completely.
And now a final outrage has been committed. Derek Carlile has been reinstated as a police officer by an arbitrator. That’s right, little people: the man who couldn’t even be trusted to keep his own children safe from his own gun is now trusted to keep the people of Marysville, Washington safe from the felons he was only a few jurors away from joining in prison.
From the Everett, Washingon Herald:
In January, an arbitrator determined that termination was an unfair level of discipline because the death happened while Carlile was off-duty, and because he had no significant previous discipline issues.
Carlile is one of at least three police officers in Snohomish County in recent years whose firings have been reversed by an arbitrator. In some cases, officers who are reinstated sign settlements with their previous employers instead of returning to the job.
In the labor proceedings, Carlile reportedly testified that he wants to return to the police department, “with all my heart.” Before his firing, the city offered Carlile a job as a code enforcement officer, a position that doesn’t involve police powers or carrying a firearm. He declined.
Carlile was hired at the police department in April 2009. The arbitrator recommended that Carlile be given a suspension instead of being fired.
Carlile was not granted back pay in the case.
Well thank God for that.
One Rule For Them, Another Rule For Us
Let’s look at the amazingly blatant double-standard that Carlile has benefited from: ordinary citizens like you and I would have almost certainly been put through another criminal trial if the first jury had deadlocked as Carlile’s did.
A diligent prosecutor would also have filed a lesser-included or alternative charge of Reckless Endangerment. Many firearm accidental discharges are prosecuted as Reckless Endangerment in Washington state, and many teenagers are routinely charged with and convicted of it for merely bringing a gun to school even when no discharges or injuries result. A conviction on Carlile’s facts would have been almost a foregone conclusion.
The prosecutor may have avoided lesser-included charges at the first trial, because he wanted the jury to convict Carlile of felony Manslaughter instead. This would have been prudent trial strategy for a prosecutor, because jurors are often willing to ‘split the baby’ (as Solomon did) and convict a defendant of lesser charges when they have the chance, rather than more serious ones.
But what’s a good strategy in a first trial can become bad strategy on retrial. When a jury has already deadlocked on the more serious charges, the prosecutor knows he’s got some weaknesses in his case. Lesser-included charges are a good idea the second time around because it’s the prosecutor’s job to get a conviction for something, even if it’s not the most serious charge.
Reckless Endangerment is a misdemeanor under Washington law, and Carlile would only have faced up to 364 days in the county jail. In reality he probably would have gotten only a few months of jail, but he also would have gotten two years’ probation. Since this tragedy involved firearms, he would probably have been forbidden to use or possess them while on probation. This probation would have cost him his gun rights for a few years, and cost him his job. No matter what the arbitrator says, you can’t be a patrol cop while you’re on probation and can’t touch guns.
And Carlile got very lucky, again, when the police arbitrator gave him his job back. The Marysville Police Department tried to do the right thing by getting him off the force, but their hands were tied. Police union contracts are so protective of LEOs that it’s nearly impossible to fire an officer for any reason that doesn’t involve a conviction for serious crimes. And sometimes even then.
So the people of Marysville, Washington are trusting their safety to a police officer who couldn’t even remember the most basic rules of gun safety. It probably won’t make them feel too much better that they won’t also have to pay him for almost two years of doing nothing.
It does’t make us feel too much better either. Let’s hope Carlile stops leaving loaded guns lying around unsecured. The Once And Future Cop still has a young son, and one dead child is one too many.