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CA: Jury hung in case of Carlous Baum

Jury hung in case of Carlous Baum
Sean Garmire/The Times-Standard
Posted: 02/25/2009 01:15:29 AM PST

A jury in Trinity County was unable to agree on a verdict in the case of Carlous Baum, an Arcata man who admitted to unintentionally shooting his nephew, saying he believed he was a bear rifling through an ice chest.

The panel of 12 jurors hung with 10 in favor of acquitting Baum of charges of involuntary manslaughter and negligent discharge of a firearm. Trinity County District Attorney Michael Harper said he must now decide whether to retry Baum, whose next jury trial date is scheduled to begin in March.

The facts presented by prosecutors in the case were not disputed by Baum, who admitted to accidentally shooting his nephew and longtime friend, 31-year-old Michael Goth. The two were related by marriage. Arcata-based defense attorney Russell Clanton took on the case pro bono after learning of the Trinity County district attorney's charging decision. He argued the incident was a "tragic" but simple accident that "could have happened to anybody."

The December 2007 shooting occurred after Baum and Goth had returned to camp after hunting bear. Clanton said neither party was successful in their hunt, and by early evening had settled into their sleeping bags in the bed of Baum's truck.

It was a cold night, Clanton said, and Baum went to sleep wearing his clothes. At around 10 p.m., he awoke overly hot, and sat up to take off his jacket. Both men had inserted earplugs to block out the sound of snoring, so Baum only saw the large, dark silhouette digging through the ice chest at the foot of his sleeping bag, Clanton said.

"He saw the bear right there, and he never doubted for a minute what it was," Clanton said.

The bear, in fact, was Goth, a large man who was wearing a dark-colored, hooded sweatshirt and was bent over, feeling through the ice chest in the near-dark.

Clanton said Baum reached for his .44-caliber Magnum pistol and fired two shots in quick succession, sitting about four feet away from his target. Forensic analysis showed the first shot grazed Goth, the second entered his arm and traveled through his rib cage, killing him, Harper said.

Clanton said Baum sped down the Forest Service road about 11 miles to a nearby town where he reported the incident, and was arrested a short time later. Harper said it was important to charge Baum, to hold him responsible for Goth's death.

"Even if he thought it was a bear, it was his duty to make sure before he shot it," Harper said. "He should have made sure it wasn't his friend."

Clanton said Goth's family was supportive of Baum through the trial process and on more than one occasion petitioned the District Attorney's Office to drop the charges.

"There has to be some understanding of just how difficult it was for Carlous," Clanton said.

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