Jury is considering the gun death of officer's child

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EVERETT — Was the death of 7-year-old Jenna Carlile a tragic accident or a crime?

That's what Snohomish County jurors will have to decide as they weigh the fate of Marysville police Officer Derek Carlile.

Carlile, 31, is charged with second-degree manslaughter for leaving a handgun within reach of his 3-year-old son, who fatally shot his sister in March in Stanwood.

Carlile had left the .38-caliber revolver in a cup holder between the front seats of the family's parked van as he and his wife stepped away, leaving his four children alone inside.

Jurors began their deliberations shortly after noon Friday, one day after the start of the trial. They failed to reach a verdict, and will return Tuesday.

On Thursday, Deputy Prosecutor Lisa Paul told jurors that Carlile was fully aware of the danger of leaving the loaded, unsecured firearm in the van with four unsupervised children.

On Friday morning, Carlile's attorney David Allen opted not to call any witnesses.

Instead, in his closing arguments, Allen reminded jurors that defendants do not have to prove their innocence. Rather, it's up to the prosecution to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

Allen insisted the state had not done so in Carlile's case.

Carlile was a conscientious father who unfailingly locked his firearms in a safe at home, Allen said. His failure March 10 to secure the revolver in the van was clearly a mistake, but "no more than a momentary lapse of judgment."

It was not, he said, a crime.

Allen said it was not the first time a child had died because of a parent's error, and he likened it to a child who drowns in a swimming pool after a parent leaves a door unlocked. "All of us make mistakes," he said.

Further, he told jurors, Carlile has already been punished with the death of his daughter.

But Paul told jurors not to let sympathy for the defendant play into their deliberations.

The fact that Carlile is "beating himself over the head, punishing himself, does not absolve him of responsibility," she said.

Carlile's action was not a mistake, but "criminally negligent conduct that directly resulted in Jenna's death." Criminal negligence is a "gross deviation" from the standard of care a reasonable person would expect, she said.

Carlile knew without question that his son, Steele, was fascinated with firearms and had tried to get into the gun safe at home. He also knew that his son moved "100 miles a minute" and didn't like to sit in his car seat, Paul said.

Further, she said, Carlile had been through hours of gun-safety training at the police academy.

And yet, even knowing all that, he put the gun in "the worst possible place in that van, in an open container where his son could see. … No reasonable person in their right mind would do that."

Paul talked of an audio recording of Carlile's interview with police that jurors had heard Thursday. "He said he was watching the van," she said, as Carlile's wife began to weep.

"He wasn't watching the van … he would have seen his son get up and get the gun. He wasn't watching."