By Scott North Herald Writer
EVERETT — A Snohomish County jury on Friday began mulling whether a Marysville police officer was criminally negligent when he left a loaded, off-duty handgun where his 3-year-old son could use it to fatally shoot the boy’s older sister.
The jury at noon began considering the second-degree manslaughter case against Derek Carlile, of Camano Island. No verdict was announced, and they were told to return to continue deliberations on Tuesday, after the Veterans Day holiday.
Carlile, 31, made mistakes that day in March, and he carries the burden of knowing his own responsibility in the death of Jenna, his 7-year-old daughter, Seattle defense attorney David Allen acknowledged. But it was “no more than a momentary lapse,” not a criminal act, when Carlile left his .38-caliber revolver unsecured in the cup holder of the family’s van instead of its usual place, strapped to his leg in an ankle holster, the attorney said.
“Parents make mistakes. Police officers make mistakes. All of us make mistakes,” Allen told jurors in closing arguments.
Deputy prosecutor Lisa Paul said there is no doubt that Carlile is punishing himself, “but that does not absolve him from creating a tragedy, causing the death of a child.”
The prosecutor said evidence showed Carlile had engaged in a series of deadly decisions that day, creating a situation so risky that “no person in their right mind” would find his actions reasonable. That means, she said, that Carlile’s negligence was criminal, a central question in the case.
To underscore her argument, the prosecutor showed jurors a graphic depicting a staircase. She identified each step up as another in a succession of poor choices that led to the loaded firearm winding up in the boy’s hand. For example, one step was Carlile’s decision to leave the weapon in the car with his children without taking the few seconds necessary to engage the handgun’s built-in locking safety.
“This revolver could have been rendered inoperable with the simple twist of a key,” she said.
Carlile did not testify. Allen told jurors there simply was no need. His client had provided police with a recorded statement the day his daughter was shot, and jurors heard that during trial. It was testimony enough, the lawyer said, unvarnished and raw.
Carlile had seemed stunned that day when he realized that the handgun wasn’t strapped to his leg, but instead was left within his son’s reach.
“‘It’s all my fault. What kind of dad am I?’” Allen quoted Carlile as having told police.
Paul characterized Carlile’s statement as a confession. She reminded jurors that they’d taken an oath not to let sympathy cloud how they viewed the evidence.
“Homicide trials are difficult to sit through, this one even more,” she said.
Scott North: 425-339-3431, firstname.lastname@example.org