Nathaniel Darren Olson has been acquitted of manslaughter in the death of Matthew Baker.
Olson, 29, was charged with first-degree manslaughter with a firearm enhancement in the shooting of Baker at a midnight-hour social gathering at a Monroe Road residence May 22, 2014.
A Clallam County jury reached a not-guilty verdict after about three hours of deliberations Monday, March 14.An elated Olson hugged defense attorney Karen Unger after Superior Court Judge Erik Rohrer read the verdict aloud.
Several members of Baker’s family gasped as the result of the two-week trial was revealed.
“Oh no!” one said.
A person commits first-degree manslaughter when he or she recklessly causes the death of another person.
To achieve a conviction, the state had to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Olson engaged in reckless conduct and that Baker died as a result of Olson’s reckless acts.
“I didn’t think that there was enough evidence,” Unger said in a telephone interview. “Obviously, the jury agreed by their verdict.”
Michele Devlin, Clallam County chief criminal deputy prosecuting attorney, made a rebuttal closing argument to the jury Monday morning.The prosecution and defense articulated main closing arguments Friday, March 11.
“The evidence has shown that Nathaniel Olson, the defendant, is guilty,” Devlin concluded Monday.
Unger had submitted that another person shot Baker and that there was a cover-up to implicate Olson.She said the jury “knew that there wasn’t enough evidence to convince anybody beyond a reasonable doubt that my client was responsible” for Baker’s death.“
Unfortunately, the family lost somebody, which is tragic,” Unger said. “But my client wasn’t the one.”Dr. Daniel Selove, who conducted Baker’s autopsy, testified last week that Baker died of a single gunshot wound to the center chest.
Baker was 25.The shooting occurred at a residence at 1523 Monroe Road on the outskirts of Port Angeles.The Clallam County Sheriff’s Office investigated.
“We were confident in the facts of the case,” said Brian King, chief criminal deputy.
Unger argued that the homeowner, David Holden, had motive to shoot Baker because the two had been fighting.Both men sustained injuries that were apparent in photographs.At the time of the shooting, the house was occupied by David and Jason Holden, Shellie Baskins, Terra Smithson, Olson, Baker and two sleeping children, according to testimony.
Unger maintained that her client was passed out from drinking too much alcohol when the gun went off, a claim disputed by the state.
Most of the adults in the house had been drinking copious amounts of alcohol after a family barbecue, witnesses said.The defense did not dispute that the .45-caliber Sig Sauer semi-automatic handgun that was used to shoot Baker was registered to Olson.
Olson had displayed the weapon to David Holden before driving to a grocery store to purchase more alcohol at about 11:20 p.m. May 21, 2014, prosecutors said.Devlin played an audio recording of a 9-1-1 call in which Baskins tells dispatchers that Baker was shot in her home.Jason Holden, the only sober adult in the house, could be heard in the background of the 9-1-1 call saying: “Nate shot him.”Smithson was heard screaming as she attempted to perform CPR on her dying boyfriend.
“That,” Devlin told the jury, “was not a cover up.”
“That was the immediate aftermath of the defendant’s reckless acts when he committed manslaughter in the first degree with a firearm enhancement.”
According to earlier testimony, Olson told Jason Holden that he had shot Baker.Smithson demanded from Olson: “Why did you shoot him, you (expletive)?” witnesses said.Despite the testimony against her client, Unger said there was not sufficient evidence to convince the 11-woman, one-man jury that Olson was guilty.
Olson did not take the stand.
Rob Ollikainen is a reporter with the Olympic Peninsula News Group, which is composed of Sound Publishing newspapers Peninsula Daily News, Sequim Gazette and Forks Forum. He can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 56450, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.