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Judge asked to reconsider negligent homicide charge in Yuba Lake shooting

Published October 2, 2012 3:11 pm

Courts • Prosecutors argue Eric Charlton was reckless when he killed his brother in May.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2012, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Prosecutors in Juab County are asking a judge to reconsider is ruling that a Weber County man will not stand trial for manslaughter.

Eric Charlton, 27, was charged by prosecutors with second-degree felony manslaughter after he accidentally shot and killed his younger brother while on a camping trip at Yuba Lake in May.

But 4th District Judge James Brady ruled after a September preliminary hearing that there was not enough evidence to support a manslaughter charge. He ruled instead that Charlton could be charged with negligent homicide, a class A misdemeanor, for the death of 17-year-old Cameron Charlton.

"There is no evidence, or inference from other evidence indicating the defendant knew a cartridge was in the firing chamber when the victim was shot," Brady wrote in his ruling.

Brady relied on another accidental shooting death case, State vs. Robinson, to find Charlton did not act recklessly, which is the core element of a manslaughter charge.

But Juab County Attorney Jared Eldridge argues in a motion filed Monday that Charlton did recklessly cause his brother's death, and that the judge erred by focusing on State vs. Robinson.

In 2000, Jose Robinson was drinking beer with his sister-in-law, Christina Galbraith, while Galbraith examined his handgun. Robinson noticed the gun appeared to be jammed, and as he tried to eject the round, the gun accidentally fired and killed Galbraith. Robinson did not stand trial on manslaughter charges, because the judge in that case ruled he was not "reckless."

In Charlton's case, he removed the magazine and cleared any rounds from a gun before showing his younger brother and a friend some firing techniques. Afterwards, he put the magazine back in the gun, but told police he didn't remember charging the gun's chamber with a live round.

While the trio sat around a campfire later that night, Charlton allegedly told his younger sibling, "You know you're my brother when you can trust me with this," before swinging the gun across his body and somehow firing the weapon, shooting Cameron Charlton in the left temple.

Eldridge argues that Robinson's case differs from Charlton's because Robinson never purposefully pointed a gun at another person.

"In our case, the evidence is that the defendant deliberately pointed the gun with the loaded magazine at his brother's head and pulled the trigger," he wrote. "It is unreasonable to suggest these actions do not pose a grave risk of harm."

Eldridge asked the judge to reconsider his decision, reinstate the manslaughter charge and allow a jury to consider whether Charlton should be convicted.

jmiller@sltrib.com

Twitter: @jm_miller