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Old 03-02-2010, 08:41 PM   #1 (permalink)
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Manslaughter & Mayhem

I am concerned.
I am concerned about justice.
I am concerned about a school teacher who I know.

Craig is one of the nicest people i have ever met. Years ago he worked for a successful hometowngonenational brewery, selling their stuff. He was happy enough but it didnt satisfy him, and he went back to school for his masters in teaching. He is one of the favorites at his middle school, with a good reputation among his peers, parents, and students. A fund in his name was set up by parents for Craig because in 11/08 he was charged with first-degree manslaughter.

Late one afternoon a man was picking beargrass in the woods, working with two other men. That man died of a gunshot wound where he stood in the forest. It was hunting season and he was reportedly shot in the shoulder, with the bullet stopping in his abdomen. He wore no color to identify him to hunters. It was close to midnight before detectives arrived on the scene according to the paper.

Craig's description, first name, and vehicle make were broadcast by the local news, asking for help locating him. He heard this and telephoned the police station, asked for the detective the news indicated, and left a message in his voicemail identifying himself and leaving his phone number. Craig was arrested and put in jail with a $750,000 bailout (no criminal record). His car was confiscated (and kept x1 year). His house was searched. He was put on leave at school (temporarily, he is back now). All of his money went to bail and attorney fees and attorney fees and attorney fees. Every step of the way has been unbelievable and with an attitude that of course this would never go to trial, this would never happen to a good man. Jury selection is scheduled for later this month or next.

Why is this not a hunting accident rather than manslaughter? Why would it be assumed that out of 100 or so hunters in the area, Craig was the one who shot this poor man? There is no forensic evidence that Craig shot this man. The bullet was not able to be used in identification of a particular weapon, however, the bullet is said to have come from a gun that was of the same class (?) as Craig's gun. It is felt by many that Craig will serve time not because he is guilty, but because the county has a reputation of ensuring that their police officers reputations on arrests remain untarnished. Some people have suggested it as an investigative reporters dream.

What would you do if you felt justice was not being served? What would you do if you were in Craig's shoes? What if it were likely you were going to purposefully walk out of your house one morning and perhaps not be back for 6.5-8.5 years, instead going to prison by mistake?


More info (but not much more): The Columbian (WA newspaper).
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Old 03-02-2010, 09:03 PM   #2 (permalink)
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That sucks. Is the trial taking place in the community where he is known?
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Old 03-03-2010, 09:36 AM   #3 (permalink)
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No. It is a small county seat in Stevenson, WA.
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Old 03-03-2010, 09:53 AM   #4 (permalink)
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Just hope for a good jury and make sure he has a damn good lawyer.

If he does end up in the big house, there's always the innocence project..
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Old 03-03-2010, 10:06 AM   #5 (permalink)
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I saw a documentary on 4 black men who were charged with murder/rape on a white college girl. There was no hard evidence saying they did it but they were in the area when it happened and the detective in charge of the case was risking his career on getting a conviction. So they basically made the police department as a whole work on the case until they could sway a jury into believing the 4 men did it.

Well that was in the 1980s before DNA evidence was a huge thing in crime. For the entire duration of their sentence, the 4 men begged that they were innocent. Of course no one believed them because the police department really got them good this time!!!!!!!!

A lady who does non-profit DNA work for people who claim innocence before DNA testing (possibly the same as gucc mentioned) took their case and ran DNA testing on the evidence of their hearing and guess what? All 4 of them innocent without a doubt. They each served TWENTY YEARS in prison on something they didn't do, didn't have a part of, just got locked up one day and now 20 years of their life is gone.

One of the men was like 16 when imprisoned. 36 when he got out.

This case blew my mind and I can't believe that it really happened. I hope the same doesn't happen to this teacher.
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Old 03-03-2010, 05:53 PM   #6 (permalink)
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Identify your friend's rifle. LEO's (cops) are frequently quite ignorant on the subject of firearms. Many LEOs will happily tell you that "this round is 7.62mm, means it came from a full-auto AK-47." Nevermind the fact that 7.62mm just means that the bullet/projectile was 7.62mm/.30in in diameter. A 7.62mm bullet could come from any rifle or handgun chambered for any of the following:

7.62x25mm (pistol round chambered for the TT-33 Tokarev, CZ-52, and assorted submachineguns. Chamber inserts for 7.62x51 and 7.62x54R exist)
7.62x39mm (AK, SKS, Remington 798)
.308/7.62x51mm NATO (too many rifles to list)
7.62x54R (Mosin-Nagant M91/30, Tokarev SVT-40, Romanian PSL/SSG sniper, etc)
.30-06/7.62x63mm US (too many rifles to list)
.300 Winchester Magnum (likewise)
.300 Weatherby Magnum (Weatherby Vanguard, Weatherby MkV, Ruger 77 or Mk I, etc)
.308 Lazzeroni Warbird/Firebird (rare, but possible)...

...Any of which is chambered in various bolt-action and semi-auto rifles, with at least 5 of the above being available in full-auto weapons other than the AK-47.

You get the picture. If the specific bullet fired into the victim cannot be matched at least by calibre and bullet weight, any decent defense atty. should be able to make headway with this, especially if the weight of the bullet does not correspond to the weight of the bullets typically fired from the Defendant's rifle. For instance, a .300 Win-Mag usually uses projectiles in the 175-220gr weight range. Therefore if the bullet recovered comes to, say, the typical 123-grain weight of the 7.62x39, it means that the victim was -probably not- shot with a .300 Win-Mag. If the Defendant's rifle is a .300WM, this means that he -probably- didn't shoot the victim, at least not with -that- rifle.

However, it should be mentioned that hunting accidents frequently -are- prosecuted as Manslaughter in the Second Degree, due to the fact that it is -EVERY- Hunter's responsibility to properly and conclusively identify his/her target, to be sure of what is -behind- that target (since centerfire rifle bullets almost always fully penetrate the target animal), and to -ONLY- take safe shots. The killing of another hunter is frequently and rightly viewed as the result of criminal negligence (ie inconsideration or indifference to the potentially deadly consequences of one's actions), and is a serious problem in many States. In NC we usually have 4-6 hunters killed that way every Deer season, and if The Law doesn't catch up the victim's family usually does. It should also be noted that, due to the popularity of a "hunting accident" being the cause of death for many, many deeply unpopular people, the Defendant should probably be glad he isn't being prosecuted for Murder. In fact, the only things that would prevent such a charge from being levied at least initially would be if the Victim and Defendant had -zero- "history" together or prior contact. In my area, at least, "hunting accident" is frequently shorthand for "competently-executed vendetta."

That said, if this truly was an accident with no way to prevent it, the Defendant will probably be acquitted. If however, he was found to be negligent in his handling of his rifle, the setup or execution of his firing-lane and shooting itself, or if he was found to have concealed info from the Police/Game Warden...he's fucked.

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Old 03-03-2010, 08:01 PM   #7 (permalink)
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myeah. my 7.62x39mm is a ruger m77 mark II.

rare, but still.

a kid around here just recently got charged with a manslaughter charge in a hunting accident, he was 16, so good luck to your buddy.
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Old 03-03-2010, 08:47 PM   #8 (permalink)
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Old 03-15-2010, 06:58 PM   #9 (permalink)
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Although I hate to post a whole article, I think I have to int his case due to the post I started. This ran in the Sunday Oregonian this week as Steve Duin's feature column:

Quote:
Skamania County shooting case leaves ruin in 'a scintilla of evidence'
By Steve Duin, The Oregonian
March 13, 2010, 10:00AM

Each time Craig Sjoberg returns to the Skamania County Superior Court in Stevenson, Wash., the inscription behind the bench reminds him, "Justice is truth in action."

Given what he's endured the past 16 months, you can forgive the Vancouver schoolteacher for thinking the court is mocking him.

On the first day of November 2008 -- and the first day of Washington state's elk hunting season -- Sjoberg headed into the Lone Butte area of Skamania County with his Remington 760 Gamemaster 30.06.

Sjoberg, 57, has hunted in the woods since he was 14 and grew up in one of those rural Michigan towns where school is called off on the opening day of deer season. About 10:30 that morning, after five hours in his orange vest, Sjoberg took a shot at a bull elk 75 yards away and missed.

Minutes later, as he tracked the elk, Sjoberg ran into two other hunters, Tim Michalek and Alison Schnelling, introduced himself and described the near-miss.

Six hours later, the body of Juan Rojas Cortez was discovered almost a half-mile from where Sjoberg bumped into Michalek and Schnelling. Cortez, who had been gathering bear grass in the Gifford Pinchot National Forest, was dead of a gunshot wound.

When The Columbian ran a story about Cortez's death Nov. 4, it noted that Skamania County sheriff's detectives were looking for a hunter named "Craig" who was driving a white Jeep Liberty and might have information about the shooting.

Sjoberg read the story and promptly called Detective Monty Buettner, leaving his cell phone on Buettner's voice mail.

"I understand why they wanted to check me out," Sjoberg says. "I was hunting in that area. Someone got shot."

Two weeks later, Sjoberg was arrested and charged with first-degree manslaughter, underlining the county's contention that he "recklessly" caused Cortez's death.

Bail was initially set at $750,000. "That was just malicious," Sjoberg said. "You set that amount on career criminals who've committed a horrible crime. I've never been arrested. I'm a teacher. I've been in the community for 25 years."

The indignities were only just beginning. Sjoberg spent a week in jail before bail was reduced to $50,000.

He was placed on administrative leave from his job as a math teacher at Shahala Middle School after Portland television crews interviewed parents of his students in the parking lot. He was castigated in blogs. The county kept his Jeep and math books in an evidence locker for a year, nine months after the crime lab was done with them.

And 16 months later, Sjoberg has yet to have his day in the courtroom that claims, "Justice is truth in action."

Beyond what it has cost his reputation -- Sjoberg has returned to teaching at Shahala -- the case has exhausted his savings. "Everything I have," Sjoberg says. "I'm broke."

Neither Christopher Lanz, the chief deputy prosecutor in Skamania County, or Steven Thayer, Sjoberg's attorney, had any comment about the case, but the heart of their arguments are on display in court filings.

In his 16-page motion to dismiss the case, Thayer reminds county prosecutors and Judge E. Thompson Reynolds that: (a) witnesses heard multiple shots that day in the area where Cortez died; (b) the shot that killed Cortez could have come from a wide variety of rifles other than Sjoberg's Remington; (c) that Sjoberg was seen more than 750 yards, two ridges and a ravine from where the body was found; and (d) Sjoberg did not hesitate to contact police.

Not only does the state present no evidence that Sjoberg was responsible for the shooting, Thayer adds, but there is no indication that Sjoberg acted recklessly.

"(T)he errant bullet," Thayer argues, "could have struck the deceased who was hidden from view crawling around in his green coat in the green bear grass in the background. That's an accident, not a crime."

Lanz responds by arguing that the state only requires "a mere scintilla of evidence" to proceed.

That scintilla? Sjoberg was in Skamania County when Cortez died. Sjoberg admitted to discharging his rifle and "all known firearms within the area were excluded" (my emphasis). What's more, Lanz notes, everyone else who was known to be hunting in the area that day said they didn't do it.

After 16 months, that argument continues to satisfy the court. Trial is set for May 10.

Sjoberg has struggled to remain philosophical, even as he has tried to parse out the agendas at play and wonder whether things can get any worse.

"I've never had much experience with the criminal justice system," he said. "I did my jury duty one time. I still believe our system is the best. Everyone knows it's not perfect. That's easier to accept when you're not on the receiving end of the not-perfect."
This was my reply (with spelling errors!!!):

Quote:
Thanks to the Oregonian for picking up and following this story regarding Skamania County. I hope it continues to follow it to its conclusion.

It has come to my attention that the Skamania County criminal court system has been earning itself a reputation as a "good old boys" network, with the sherrif, prosecutor, and judge supporting one another's decisions whether they are right, wrong, or inconclusive with regards to wrongdoing and evidence therein. As an example of their irresponsibility, prosecutor Lanz should have recused himself due to a conflict of interest in a recent case brought before this court (his daughter actaully took the stand as a witness for the prosecution).

If this court decides to go ahead with a jury trial in the Sjoberg case without physical evidence, I will suggest that Washington's Attorney General, Robert McKenna, look into the history of charges, and convictions within this particular court, with a keen eye to the possibility of utilizing a grand jury system in Skamania County rather than relying on the opinion of this judge. I would opine that a panel of responsible citizens may have a more clear picture than one old network judge in regards to evidence to convict, before using thousands of dollars of taxpayer money to bring someone to trial.

In addition to the Oregonian keeping an eye on this case, it would be in the best interest of other hunters/NRA activists to get involved. If the outcome of this case sets a precedent it could be used against them in any future accidents in which they were in the vicinity. In addition, I call upon any Court watchdogs to keep this case in mind with regards to actual evidence/witnesses vs the prosecutions opinions.

Mr. Sjoberg may want to contact the state's CLU (Criminal Investigation Unit) at the AG's office. They can begin to investigate the administration of the justice that Mr. Lanz and Judge Reynolds are meteing out, before any trial has even begun.
I am not normally one to call upon the NRA or hunters to get all festered up about something, but it seems just in this case being that they are the ones that are being hung. I feel a little hypocritical, but really it is pertinent to them.

Any other suggestions?
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Old 03-16-2010, 06:14 AM   #10 (permalink)
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Sorry, no suggestions.
Good work and good luck.
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Old 05-17-2010, 05:34 PM   #11 (permalink)
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The results are in! The man is not a killer! We knew that though.
A scathing article follows.

***

Craig Sjoberg Cuts His Losses
By Steve Duin, The Oregonian
May 08, 2010, 8:13AM

Four days before Craig Sjoberg was scheduled to go on trial for first-degree manslaughter, he settled his case with Skamania County, apparently deciding that an absurd verdict was better than the 1000-to-1 shot he might be found guilty.

As I noted in that March 13 column, Sjoberg -- a Vancouver school teacher -- was charged with "recklessly" causing the death of Juan Rojas Cortez, who died of a gunshot wound on the first day of hunting season while gathering bear grass in the Gifford Pinchot National Forest.

Sjoberg was apparently the only hunter that the county's chief deputy prosecutor, Christopher Lanz, could find who admitted to shooting his rifle that November day. And that was enough for Lanz -- who said the state required no more than "a mere scintilla of evidence" -- to charge the 57-year-old Sjoberg in the death of Cortez.

I had a seat reserved for the May 10 trial, just so I could get a first-hand look at how the wheels of justice turn in Stevenson, Wash.

But in the end, Steven Thayer, Sjoberg's attorney, convinced him to accept a "deal" that is almost as laughable as the original charge.

On Thursday, Sjoberg pleaded guilty to unlawful discharge of a firearm, which earned him bench probation of 24 months. He also agreed to "restitution as stipulated" -- reimbursing Cortez's family for the cost of his funeral -- and speaking at six hunters' safety courses in the next 24 months.

This case was an absolute travesty from Day One. Lanz had absolutely nothing to tie Sjoberg to the bullet that killed Cortez, who was foolish enough to be gathering bear grass in dark clothing on a day when hunters were dashing through the woods.

The charges cost Sjoberg dearly. He spent a week in jail. He was put on leave from Shahala Middle School. He eventually forked over almost $100,000 to Thayer.

In the end, Lanz was desperate for cover, and Thayer convinced Sjoberg to provide it for him.

Where this leaves Sjoberg if the Cortez family decides to file a civil suit against him, I don't know. Nor can I imagine what possible advice Sjoberg will have for fellow hunters.

But I hope Lanz, Thayer and Superior Judge E. Thompson Reynolds someday offer a defendants' safety class in Skamania County. That's a seminar I'd happily audit.
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Old 05-17-2010, 05:51 PM   #12 (permalink)
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Glad to hear Mr. Sjoberg was able to avoid the possibility of a "Guilty" verdict, but...

Quote:
Where this leaves Sjoberg if the Cortez family decides to file a civil suit against him, I don't know.
Fucked, that's where it leaves him. He "admitted" (legally, not morally or practically) to committing the act which caused this person's death. A lawsuit for Wrongful Death won't be far behind, probably with enhancements for the "negligence" he "admitted," and he will lose. Edited to add: I certainly hope I'm wrong about this. Unfortunately, this is America, and we all know what that means when it comes to suits at law.

Quote:
Nor can I imagine what possible advice Sjoberg will have for fellow hunters.
Repeat after me:

"I do not wish to make a statement at this time. I do not consent to any search of my Person, Property, or Effects. I wish to contact an attorney."

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Old 05-20-2010, 08:39 AM   #13 (permalink)
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This guy did have a lawyer, right? because it would have been really hard to get convicted if there was zero physical evidence.
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Old 05-20-2010, 08:49 AM   #14 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dksuddeth View Post
This guy did have a lawyer, right? because it would have been really hard to get convicted if there was zero physical evidence.
Quote:
But in the end, Steven Thayer, Sjoberg's attorney, convinced him to accept a "deal" that is almost as laughable as the original charge.
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Old 05-20-2010, 10:30 AM   #15 (permalink)
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Thank god that justice was apparently served.
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Old 05-20-2010, 10:38 AM   #16 (permalink)
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If the bullet stopped in the victim's abdomen and was recovered, why couldn't they do a ballistics comparison with Craig's rifle to match or exclude it?
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Old 05-20-2010, 10:43 AM   #17 (permalink)
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This is horrid! I'm glad he wasn't found guilty of manslaughter, but that's hardly justic to what he's been through. See this is why the practice of hunting frightenes me. Two of my family members have been killed due to hunting, (One in the stomach under similar circumstances as Mr.Cortez, wrong place at the wrong time, and another after he'd just got back from hunting and was reaching over his gun to get his kill when it discharged and got him in the head)

I hate the justic system, becuase it doesn't provide justic, so much as make sure someone gets blamed for the crime, however petty or serious it is, someone has to pay and go to jail. In theory this makes sense, of course if something bad happened there has to be someone behind it, but that's childs logic, it's not always so. Accidents, framings, blackmail, people don't factor these in unless they are RIGHT THERE and cannot be missed. If there's no or little evidence, they ignore it, making false accusations until they have something to go on, someone to blame.

I really hope Craig is acquitted and given monetary compensation for something that is not even slightly his fault. He never sought out to murder a man, *IF* by chance a bullet from his gun was the cause of death for said man, Craig did not once to try lie or cover up the fact that he was hunting, near/around the area, with similar bullets. I don't even know this man but I have faith that IF he had known his bullet had penetrated a man, he wouldn't have walked away. He would have done the proper thing and gotten help, he would have been a hero not a fellon. And the only, the ONLY stitch of different between the two, is that bullets travel far, and they travel fast, so IF Craigs bullet did travel so far as to kill this man, he couldn't see it to prevent or plan it.
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Old 05-20-2010, 11:50 PM   #18 (permalink)
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People in this country have no idea how much power prosecutors have. It's insane, and almost without oversight. And as in this case, many places have the institutional incentive for their entire criminal justice system to close ranks. Oftentimes, this is justified; after all, prosecutors will have always have difficult, legitimate cases and need all the help they can get. But, like the Blue Wall of Silence, this comes very close to misconduct and certainly becomes a tragedy in cases like this.

Also, this Onion story is terrifyingly spot-on, especially the ending:

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