RUPERT • A jury found Michael Jared Thompson guilty of involuntary manslaughter in the shooting death of Michael Kenneth Blair, 21, Friday after deliberating the case for about three hours.
A sentencing hearing is set for Jan. 28, 2013. Thompson, 25, was ordered to undergo a pre-sentence investigation for substance abuse prior to the sentencing hearing.
Thompson was charged after holding up a loaded pistol in the crew cab of his truck as a threat to quell an argument as he drove three friends home from a night of drinking at a Paul bar. Thompson took his 9 mm pistol out of its holster, loaded it and held it backward over the center console in an upright manner. Blair, who was in the backseat behind Thompson put his hand over Thompson’s on the gun and placed the barrel in his mouth. The gun discharged killing him instantly.
The jury retired at about 11:30 a.m. with about 60 pieces of evidence after hearing closing arguments from the prosecution and defense, which gave the jury contradicting information regarding what the evidence needed to show in order for the jury to reach a verdict.
“So many words so much time and so little evidence. This case is pathetic,” said defense attorney Keith Roark at the beginning of his closing statements. Despite the fact that the state presented dozens of pieces of evidence, Roark said the state’s prosecutor failed to prove Thompson caused Blair’s death.
Roark said Blair put the barrel of the gun into his own mouth and pulled the trigger, committing suicide.
“We have to get down to causation; this is what this case is all about,” Roark said.
Roark likened the burden of the state to prove its case to frozen water that has to be heated to boiling by “throwing fuel” or evidence on the fire below it.
Sometimes the state throws bricks on the fire or ineffectual evidence, he said, which does not help in heating the water to boiling.
“There were enough bricks in this case to build a couple of houses but not enough fuel to melt a Popsicle,” Roark said.
Minidoka County Prosecutor Lance Stevenson said Blair likely did not know the gun was loaded and the state proved Thompson’s reckless use of the gun produced the death of Blair.
According to the instructions given to the jury by presiding 5th District Judge Michael Crabtree the jury had to find that Thompson used a firearm with reckless disregard of the consequences and rights of others producing the death of Blair.
Stevenson said Thompson chose the most “reckless” option available to him that night to stop the argument.
“He’s the one who took the gun out,” Stevenson said. “He’s the one who cocked it and he’s the one who put it into play.”
Stevenson said the evidence showed that Thompson never lost control of the gun that night, contrary to the picture the defense presented.
Stevenson said a blood smear on the left thigh of Thompson’s pants proved he still had the gun in his hand after Blair was shot and the gun was found on the floorboard of the passenger’s seat in the front, not in the backseat, where it would have been if Blair had control of the gun.
Thompson faces a maximum sentence of 25 years in prison, which includes the penalty for a conviction of a crime while using a firearm.