New trial to start today in girl's 2008 shooting death
Testimony is expected to begin Tuesday in the case against Richard Peters. Prosecutors allege that Peters was drunk when he asked his 6-year-old daughter, Stormy, to fetch one of his handguns. He is accused of shooting the girl between the eyes in the family room of their Marysville-area home.
Peters told investigators the gun accidentally discharged as he was removing an ammunition magazine.
A jury in 2009 acquitted Peters of second-degree murder, unconvinced of the prosecutor's theory that Peters intentionally pointed the handgun at his daughter to scare her or get her to shut up. Instead, jurors convicted Peters of first-degree manslaughter with a firearm. He was sentenced to more than 13 years in prison.
Peters, however, won a new trial in 2011.
The state Court of Appeals overturned his conviction after finding that the Snohomish County trial judge erred in giving the jury an instruction that lowered the burden of proof to convict Peters of manslaughter.
"It is not clear beyond a reasonable doubt that the outcome of the trial would have been the same absent the erroneous jury instruction," said the appellate court decision, which was written by Ann Schindler, then presiding chief judge.
Snohomish County deputy prosecutor Paul Stern moved forward a few months later to retry the defendant.
The prosecution's case isn't expected to differ much from what was presented in 2009, except Stern can't seek a murder conviction. The defendant only can be retried on the manslaughter charge. Jurors will be asked to decide if Peters was reckless and deliberately ignored the risks of handling a firearm around his daughter.
Prosecutors allege that Peters had spent the afternoon drinking vodka and Coke. He sent Stormy to his bedroom to retrieve a gun from his nightstand, court papers said. He reportedly told detectives that all of his children were accustomed to being around guns.
Peters told investigators he didn't think the gun that Stormy retrieved was loaded.
He explained that he cleared the magazine from the gun, pulled the trigger and the gun fired, court documents said.
Stormy was shot in the face. She crumpled to the floor. The first-grader died the next day at a Seattle hospital.
Peters was arrested. His other children were removed from the home.
At his sentencing in 2009, both the defendant's wife and his mother pleaded with the court for leniency. The family, including the couple's other two children, already were suffering. Peters being sent away to prison only compounded their grief, they said.
"Our daughter meant the world to us as do our boys," Kristina Peters told the judge. "No matter how much time you give Rich, it'll never amount to the punishment this family is going through."
Peters had been in prison until last year. He was moved back to the Snohomish County Jail after prosecutors decided to retry him.
The accidental shooting death of another young girl in Snohomish County also led to a father being tried for manslaughter.
Marysville police officer Derek Carlile was charged last year in connection with his daughter's death. He was accused of leaving a loaded gun within reach of his young son. The boy fatally shot his 7-year-old sister while they were in the family van.
A judge declared a mistrial after a jury couldn't reach a unanimous decision in the case against the Camano Island father. Prosecutors opted to dismiss the second-degree manslaughter charge against Carlile because they doubted that a second trial would result in a verdict.
Diana Hefley: 425-339-3463; firstname.lastname@example.org.
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