Eureka >> A Humboldt County Superior Court judge last Wednesday granted the defense’s motion to dismiss the murder charge against Benjamin Jasper Carter after the District Attorney’s Office found there was merit to Carter’s self-defense argument, according to Deputy District Attorney Andrew Isaac.
Carter, 34, is accused of fatally shooting 36-year-old Redway resident Zackery Jacob Chapman with a shotgun in April 2014. Chapman’s body was found west of Tooby Memorial Park off Kitmu Road in Garberville on April 16, 2014. After being on the run for several weeks, Carter was found in Arizona by the U.S. Marshals and returned to Humboldt County. Carter was accused of one count of murder and one count of being a felon in possession of a firearm. He had pleaded not guilty to both charges.
Carter’s attorney Michael Acosta filed a Penal Code 995 motion in April to dismiss the charges, with Judge John T. Feeney granting the dismissal of Carter’s murder charge on Wednesday
Isaac said the District Attorney’s Office recognized that there was a strong self-defense argument during the preliminary hearing last year. According to all the witnesses, Chapman — whose autopsy found that he had a potentially lethal dose of methamphetamine in his system — had entered Carter’s trailer and pointed a pistol at Carter’s wife and his sister-in-law, Isaac said. Carter reportedly entered the trailer just afterward carrying Chapman’s shotgun, according to Isaac.
“(Chapman’s) high and he’s got a gun in her face,” Isaac said, recounting the preliminary hearing testimony. “Carter comes in and Chapman spins around and Chapman puts the gun into Carter’s face less than a two-foot distance away. Carter has the shotgun in his hand and almost instantly fired one round, which killed Chapman.”
While Isaac said he does not believe everything that Carter and the witnesses described, but the explanation is “the only version of events I’ve got.”
“All the witnesses I’ve got back up the self defense argument — even witnesses that don’t like Mr. Carter,” Isaac said.
Isaac said the District Attorney’s Office pursued the murder charged due to Carter attempting to hide the guns and Chapman’s body. What they “overlooked” was the fact that Carter is on felony probation, Isaac said.
“When you look at it, he’s a felon and has a gun and has just shot someone,” Isaac said. “You can see why he might want to hide that fact.”
Carter’s attorney had also attempted to have the charge alleging that Carter was in possession of a gun while on felony probation dismissed due to the District Attorney’s Office not submitting evidence to prove this in the preliminary hearing.
“On the gun charge, the District Attorney’s Office did not introduce evidence that Carter was a felon at the preliminary hearing,” he said. “There is a process in the law that if there has been a minor administrative oversight, then the court can correct it. They should have submitted his certified record. That was done (Wednesday). The felon in possession of a gun charge is still going forward.”
Isaac said his office has offered Carter a plea deal for him to serve six years in prison.
An intervention hearing has been scheduled in the case today at 3:30 p.m. to discuss the plea offer.
Will Houston can be reached at 707-441-0504.