MARQUETTE - The jury in the open murder trial of Jacques Earl Carpenter reached a verdict Wednesday afternoon - finding Carpenter guilty of voluntary manslaughter, as well as possession of a firearm in the commission of a felony.
On June 8, 2012, Carpenter, 53, shot and killed 28-year-old David Scott Meyer Jr. at the 409 N. Second St. residence in Ishpeming where both men were staying. Carpenter's defense claimed that he shot Meyer in self-defense, after Meyer attacked him with a large hunting knife. Prosecutors argued that there was no evidence supporting the self-defense claim. The knife that was recovered at the scene of the shooting, while never tested for contact DNA, was examined for blood and tested for fingerprints, and none of either was found. The jury began its deliberations at approximately 12:40 p.m. Tuesday and recessed for the day at 6 p.m. They reconvened at 9 a.m. Wednesday and delivered the verdict around 1 p.m.
Both Marquette County Prosecutor Matthew Wiese and defense attorney Karl Numinen praised the jury and agreed that the jurors took their roles seriously and arrived carefully at their decision.
"I'm very satisfied with the verdict," Wiese said. "I think the jury did a good job. They deliberated for about eight, eight and a half hours and it's obvious they put a lot of work in on the case."
"I respect the jury process, and I particularly respect the members of this ... jury," Numinen said. "They obviously took their job very seriously. They took very extensive notes during the trial, they asked excellent questions during the trial - very insightful questions - that demonstrated that they were paying attention."
Under Michigan law, the prosecution is not required to charge either first degree or second degree murder, but may charge "open murder," which combines the two charges and allows the jury to determine the appropriate degree based on the evidence and testimony at the trial. In their deliberations, Numinen said the jury "obviously compromised" when they returned the voluntary manslaughter verdict.
"I would have rather have the jury had to decide between murder or straight up self-defense," he said, "but the law allows the prosecutor to ask the jury - in an open murder case - to come back on a lesser included offense of manslaughter, and that's what they did."
Manslaughter is a felony punishable by not more than 15 years imprisonment or by a fine of not more than $7,500, or both, at the discretion of the court. Carrying or possessing a firearm when committing or attempting to commit a felony is itself a felony punishable by a mandatory two years consecutive sentence for a first offense, typically served before what Wiese called the sentence on "the major offense."
Carpenter will be sentenced at 9 a.m. Nov. 1 at Marquette County Circuit Court, and Wiese said that he will argue that the judge sentence Carpenter to the maximum 15 years imprisonment.
"I'll be making an argument that is supported by the sentencing guidelines ... which take into account the record of the person and the nature of the offense," he said. While the maximum punishment is set at 15 years, the sentencing guidelines give the judge a range for setting the minimum sentence.
"The judge has a lot of discretion (for sentencing) on a manslaughter conviction," Numinen said. He said that the prosecution and defense "haven't scored the sentence guidelines yet" - they'll be taking a closer look as the Nov. 1 sentencing date nears - but that it's the job of the defense to keep Carpenter's sentence as short as possible.
"He's already served 14 months of any sentence that he's going to get, and we're going to do everything we can to mitigate and request a sentence on the lowest end of those guidelines," he said.
Zach Jay can be reached at 906-486-4401. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.