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Orange County

Jury Gets Trial of Man in Shotgun Case

He could be convicted of a felony for accidentally maiming his 8-year-old daughter with the weapon.

October 15, 2003|Mai Tran | Times Staff Writer

An Orange County jury began deliberations Tuesday to determine whether a father was reckless when he maimed his daughter with an accidental shotgun blast.

Jeffrey West, 35, was charged with felony child endangerment and could be sentenced to nine years in prison if convicted of the September 2002 shooting.

West, who had just bought the 12-gauge shotgun at a sporting-goods store, was sitting on the edge of the bathtub at his Dana Point townhouse examining the weapon when it discharged and struck 8-year-old Madison, who was a few feet away. The blast tore away Madison's right arm just above the elbow and severely damaged a kidney.

During two-hour closing arguments in a crowded courtroom, Deputy Dist. Atty. Karen Schatzle said West committed an "aggravated, reckless and flagrant" act when he loaded and unloaded the gun while his daughter stood nearby. He also pointed the barrel at Madison and had not locked up three other loaded guns kept in the house and car, she said.

"His method of storing his weapons adds to his recklessness," she told the jury of eight women and four men. "It was his indifference to human life that endangered his child."

Defense attorney Robison Harley argued that West kept the guns in the house for protection after the home was recently burglarized. He said the shooting was "purely accidental."

"There's no evil intent," Harley said. "Inattention, mistake in judgment, misadventure is not criminal negligence. All he was doing was what the gun was designed for -- loading and unloading. He was trying to familiarize himself with the gun."

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