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Officer Derek Carlile’s 2nd-Degree Manslaughter trial ended with a hung jury and a mistrial yesterday. Prosecutors are deciding whether to re-try the case in January. Back in March, 2012 we ran a post on the tragic and entirely avoidable death of Officer Derek Carlile’s young daughter. Carlile, a Marysville, WA police officer, left his loaded .38 revolver in his van’s front seat cup-holder with his four children in the car. Carlile’s young son Steele let himself out of his booster seat, picked up the gun, and shot his 7 year-old sister with it. She died at a Seattle hospital . . .

From the Seattle Times:

EVERETT — The trial of a Marysville police officer who was accused of negligence in the shooting death of his 7-year-old daughter came to an emotional end Tuesday when jurors announced they were deadlocked and a judge declared a mistrial.

The jury weighing the fate of Derek Carlile said they were split 7-4 in favor of acquittal, with one undecided, after hearing how the officer’s 3-year-old son fatally shot his older sister with Carlile’s handgun in the family’s van in March.

Snohomish County prosecutors immediately announced a Jan. 29 date for a second trial for Carlile, which drew sobs from Carlile’s wife.

But Chief Criminal Deputy Prosecutor Joan Cavagnaro told reporters that setting a new trial date was a procedural formality. She indicated her office would carefully evaluate the case, weighing what jurors said and how they were split, before deciding whether to seek a retrial.

Regardless of whether or not a jury feels sorry for Carlile, I applaud the prosecutor’s decision to make him stand trial for his daughter’s death. Each of us knows that if we caused a child’s death in this way, we would certainly face criminal prosecution. The fact that Carlile is a police officer should not, and thankfully did not, influence the prosecutor’s decision to uphold the law equally.

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  1. Not only should the officer in question be held accountable, he should, according to his profession, be held to an even higher level of competency.

  2. Kudos to the prosecution for making him stand trial. After the shooting death of a 7-year-old by a 3-year-old I wonder if it was an average citizen being prosecuted if the average jury would have ended with a hung jury and a mistrial? Somehow, I doubt it especially in anti-gun Washington State. That poor boy is going to have to live with killing his sister for all his life.

    The man should be fired by the police department for unprofessional and irresponsible conduct…of course in the double-standard morally-corrupt real world that won’t happen.

    • Outside of the Seattle area, Washington is extremely pro-2a. A comprehensive firearms licensing and registration scheme was put to the voters here in the late 1990s, and was rejected so soundly (about 75/25) that even the Oregonian described the result as “Not just no, but Hell No.”

    • Being a police officer is not as much an issue to the jury as is the fact that a parent, already having suffered the loss of a chjild, is being prosecuted for secod degree murder, thus standing to lose his/her entire family. Jurys seem to find that adding tragedy on top of tragedy is too punitive.

  3. A cop who left a gun accessible to a child. That child shot another child. How is that NOT negligence? What mitigating circumstances could have deadlocked the jury?

    I am very puzzled by the jury. Maybe there is something to the old adage of “Trusting your fate to 12 people too stupid to get out of jury duty.”

    • Probably a case where being a cop saved this guy from being convicted. He’s quite lucky it ended in a mistrial for him.

      You can bet if the father in connection was plain-Jane / regular Joe, he’d be nailed to the wall for doing something as careless as leaving his piece out in a cupholder with 2 unsupervised young children.

  4. What is it with cops in Washington and really shitty gun control ? Didn’t an spd officer leave his m4 on the trunk of his car for like 45 min unattended and then drive off with it last year ?

    • It’s almost an epidemic here. Another cop’s child killed himself with his dad’s gun, because dad left the gun safe open. Our local prosecutor doesn’t have the minerals the Snohomish County prosecutor does; he declined to file charges for the child’s death. And an Oregon prosecutor declined to file charges after Deputy Owens and his wife coerced and threatened his young stepdaughter into confessing to shooting the boy.

      • I remember reading about the coercion case. They didn’t get charged? Didn’t they outright confess to strong arming their other kid? That has got to be one of the biggest cases of double standards I’ve ever heard about.

  5. I suppose the greatest question I have here is what is the end value? Certainly punishment would be ideal in the abstract for a man who caused the death of a child. But what of the man taken into the context of his other 3 children? Should they suffer the loss of income, companionship, or simply the loss of their father because of this instance? It would seem that a greater harm in this particular case would be caused by his incarceration.

    If he be a sociopath with no remorse, I suppose circumstances change. But I cannot fathom the depths of grief and despair that an even reasonably caring parent would experience knowing that they caused the death of their child. Continually prosecuting a case in that light would abstract the greater notion of justice. Methinks.

    • In short, yes. Feelings and a loss of companionship as well as income is NOT punishment. Conviction and incarceration for negligent actions that directly lead to the death of a child is proper punishment. LEO or not, doesn’t matter.

      • LEO is irrelevant. If a family loses the pater familias, and with him the very income they rely on for survival, isn’t that a disproportionate punishment?

        The situation seems to demand separation from a typical mindset in doling punishment to a guilty party. If it were a case of a negligent auto accident, where this man ran down another family’s child on a bicycle, I don’t think a rational person in the world would fail to see the need for punishment and redress. But for a negligent action within one’s own home (so to speak), without malice, is it possible that the jury can take into account greater circumstances than the normal course of criminal justice?

        • So a single man who leaves a gun accessible for a child to kill another child should be convicted and incarcerated but not a family man? Is it a disproportionate punishment? No, no it is not.

        • It happens all the time here in America – fathers being locked up, away from their kids. Whether or not it’s justice is larger discussion that should be based on the specifics of each person’s crime.

          Murder? Rape? Theft? Sure.

          Being caught with a joint of marijuana? I would say no.

    • There is a comment in the article that I never considered about until now: “A conviction for daddy will tell the child he is not blame for the death of his sister – something he will have to deal with for the rest of his life. Any sentence will be up to a judge. Daddy could get a suspended jail sentence with community service or minimal jail time.”

      I have to agree with this– anything to help the son cope with the fact that he shot his sister, even if it wasn’t the boy’s fault.

      • This. I was struggling a bit with the issue until I read this comment. Excellent point, NWGlocker, and it’s telling that the principle applies to cop and private citizen equally. To me, that seems like justice.

  6. At what point has it quit being a search for justice and became a hunt for revenge. This family has already been damaged, maybe beyond repair. But putting the father in prison would destroy it for sure.

    I have seen incidents in the news where a parent should have been charged but wasn’t in cases just like this. Should he remain a cop? No. But are we hounding him because he is a cop? Let’s be honest with ourselves and fair with others.

    • I don’t see it as revenge. I see it setting a standard and following through. If you leave a firearm accessible for anyone to use and someone dies as a result, conviction and incarceration is applicable for all.

      Along with rights come responsibilities. The person failed in his responsibility to secure a firearm with children near. Another child died and it is a direct failure of responsibility by this person. He had much more to lose and he should have been mindful of that fact.

      Seems simple to me. I take my rights and the associated responsibilities very seriously. As should every citizen.

      • setting standards are great, if we hold to them at all times. But we don’t. In my time working at the prison I saw an 18yo with no prior history draw 2 years in the pen on a DUI because a DA in LA wanted to prove he was tough on crime. I also knew a man that was given life without parole in a double homicide that met and married his wife after he went to prison and fathered 3 kids with her.

        What part of our justice system meets any standard? I’d settle for the rule of right vs. wrong over the legal or illegal mish mash we have.

        • All fair points. I don’t think I can argue the fairness of conjugal visits. Standards should be set and met. The human condition is by far our greatest asset as well as out greatest failing. A non stop struggle for balance of right versus wrong, good versus evil and justice and injustice.

          As far as the topic case, a conviction and some form of incarceration is warranted. A child died due to his negligence. Not injured but dead. Single or a family man makes no difference.

    • Let’s be honest with ourselves-would you feel the same way if the person involved was not a cop? No, then it would be a careless gun owner. Point is ANYONE who makes a firearm available to a child and in doing so creates a tragedy deserves the full weight of the law. Professionals should not be given a break because they as professionals should set the standard.

      • I don’t care what his profession is. This wasn’t a man that set out to rob a liqour store or do a drug deal. He was a gun owner regardless of his job. He had a brain fart that resulted in tragedy, as any of us could have. Now to grind what’s left of his family up with the system isn’t justice.

        He should no longer be a cop. He should lose his gun rights. Probation is a real possibility, but prison time?

  7. Let’s consider also that tens of thouseands of people die in auto accidents each year, but absent aggravating circumstances (drugs, alcohol running to avoid arrest or intentional misconduct) it is a rare case that gets prosecuted as a homicide. Mother backs over unseen child in driveway. Is mother charged? No. Cars spin out on an icy freeway, or a multicollision on a foggy road. Prosecution? Rare. Lawsuits aplenty. These shootings are not intentional homicides, just negligent ones. The crime is the same–negligent homicide. Should the fact that a gun was used increase the penalty, or increase the risk that a penalty would be sought, merely because a gun was used instead of a car, a truck, a bus, an ATV or a boat? Sounds like a grabber argument to me.

    • Not a grabber argument at all. The responsibilities that go along with rights carry a heavier weight than responsibilities for privileges. The same as rights are more important than privileges. I see leaving the gun where a child could get to it as equal to DUI though.

      The LEO aspect of this case is important in one aspect. As a LEO, this individual has had to apply his judgment to many a situations over the years. This must be taken into account. A higher standard must be applied to LEO’s. If his judgment in this instance is so poor, what other mistakes has he made in the past and what effect has it had on people.

      The very least is job termination. Without a conviction, his 2A rights cannot and should not be terminated.

      I maintain a child was killed and not injured. Conviction should have been easy. This all my view. Obviously the jury saw it differently and he prevailed. Right or wrong the system ran it’s course.

    • Amen. How is this different than if he failed to be responsible with his vehicle when backing out of the drive? You are siding with antis when you imply a car is safer or more forgivable than a firearm.

  8. This is a complete disgrace to the justice system and a black eye on humanity. A paid trained firearms handler aka police officer leaves an unlocked loaded weapon in the reach of children who are alone in a vehicle. He’s not guilty of anything?! There is a serious problem with that thinking. It was a lapse in thinking? Well, the citizens of WA state and in particular Marysville, cannot afford to employ a police officer that has lapses in thinking, protecting the people. If he gets off, then anyone who leaves a loaded gun around children that end up killing someone, they should get off as well. No, I don’t believe he should get off. He owes a debt to society and to his entire family. Prison is not going to bring the child back, but he should be required to publicly acknowledge his guilt, he should have to serve weekends in prison for a period of no less than a year, he should be required to speak at schools about gun safety, the importance of it and his ignorance of it and what it cost. He should not be allowed to be a police officer or ever serve in any capacity where he is responsible for anyone other than himself. He should not be allowed to have a carry conceal permit. He should have to donate time to help families who have lost children to improper storage or handling of firearms. This would amount to useful reparations for his lapse in thinking.

  9. “Each of us knows that if we caused a child’s death in this way, we would certainly face criminal prosecution.”

    Chris, you should spend a little more time on my blog. You’d find frequent examples of this just not being the case.

  10. I think the toddler should be held liable. Anybody who doesn’t think that a 3 year old knows and respects firearms especially with a father in law enforcement is delusional. When I was that age I fully remember being fully conscious of the effects of firearms and their consequences. I knew right from wrong. If he’s capable of lifting the firearm and discharging a round towards a sibling sitting behind him in a van he’s fully aware of the consequence s of his actions. He may not be aware of the penalties of such actions, but he knew the end result would be the death of his sister. There’s been murders enacted by children since the beginning of time and in now way does ignorance nor lack of wisdom relieve them of their wrongdoings.


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