Officer’s trial to begin in shooting death of daughter

EVERETT — Lawyers moved forward Wednesday in preparation for next week’s trial of a Marysville police officer charged in connection with an accidental shooting that took his young daughter’s life.

Several Snohomish County sheriff’s deputies took the witness stand Wednesday as prosecutors asked a judge to allow jurors to hear statements Derek Carlile made the day his daughter, Jenna, was killed.

The Camano Island father is charged with second-degree manslaughter. Prosecutors allege that the off-duty officer failed to heed or be aware of the danger of leaving his four children, ages 1 to 7, alone in a van with a loaded handgun March 10 in Stanwood.

Investigators believe Carlile’s 3-year-old son, who was known to be fascinated with guns, climbed out of his booster seat and grabbed a loaded .38-caliber revolver from a cup holder. He fired once.

Jenna, 7, was struck in her abdomen. She died within hours, despite emergency surgery.

Earlier this week, the state Court of Appeals declined to review a Snohomish County Superior Court judge’s decision to allow the case against Carlile to go forward.

The defense had asked that the charge be thrown out. Seattle attorney David Allen argued that based on the manslaughter statute, prosecutors cannot prove that Carlile caused his daughter’s death. Carlile did not hand the gun to his son, or encourage the boy to fire the pistol, and he wasn’t even aware that the boy had picked up the weapon, Allen wrote in court papers.

Additionally, Allen has pointed out that Washington, unlike some other states, has no specific law regarding potential criminal penalties for adults who make it possible for children to get their hands on firearms.

Judge Thomas Wynne, however, declined to dismiss the charge. He said that proximate cause is the standard to determine culpability in case that hinges on allegations of negligence.

Allen asked the state Court of Appeals to review the judge’s decision.

In her written ruling dated Tuesday, state Court of Appeals Commissioner Mary Neel said the defense failed to show that Wynne made an obvious error in his September decision.

“Carlile raises important issues that have not been resolved by Washington courts, but I conclude that interlocutory review is not warranted,” Neel wrote. “If Carlile is convicted, these and other issues can be raised on appeal.”

Neel acknowledged that a different division of the state Court of Appeals was expected to hear arguments later this month in a similar case out of Kitsap County. The review, however, was granted based on a different standard of error alleged in that trial court’s decision, she wrote.

In the Kitsap County case, a 9-year-old boy found a loaded gun in a dresser drawer and stowed the weapon in his backpack. Five days later, the boy took the backpack to school and the gun went off, striking an 8-year-old classmate. She survived the shooting.

The boy’s mother and her boyfriend were charged with felony assault. Prosecutors alleged that they were negligent in allowing the boy to get his hands on the .45-caliber gun.

The owner of the gun, Douglas Bauer, is fighting the assault charge against him. His lawyer is arguing that his client didn’t cause the girl’s injuries and therefore can’t be convicted of assault.

The appellant court commissioner pointed out that the facts in the Stanwood shooting are significantly different.

“Carlile argues that these differences may go to the issue of criminal negligence rather than the issue of causation, but this is the type of issue not easily resolved by an appellate court before trial,” Neel wrote.

Meanwhile, Wynne on Wednesday ruled that jurors will be allowed to hear various statements that Carlile made, including a tape-recorded interview he gave to sheriff’s detectives at the hospital where doctors were trying to save his daughter.

The judge concluded that detectives were not required to read Carlile his Miranda rights because he was never under arrest or in custody. Wynne said Carlile provided the statements knowingly and voluntarily.

Diana Hefley: 425-339-3463; hefley@heraldnet.com.

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