A University of Idaho College of Law Professor expressed skepticism about the involuntary manslaughter case arraigned Thursday in Bonneville County relation to the death of a sheriff’s deputy.
Assistant Professor Samuel Newton said he had never seen a case like the one filed against Jenna Holm. The probable cause affidavit written by Idaho State Police Detective Mike Cox states she is legally responsible for the May 18 death of Deputy Wyatt Maser who was killed when he was hit by a vehicle driven by a fellow deputy. The affidavit states Maser was distracted after Holm threatened him with a machete and was not paying attention when he was hit by a colleague’s car arriving on the scene.
In a discussion with the Post Register, however, Newton said he thought the manslaughter charge against Holm went too far and a major factor in the case would be whether Sgt. Randy Flegel, the driver of the car that killed Maser, was driving negligently.
“She has to unlawfully kill a human being through an unlawful act,” Newton said. “I don’t see how they get there.”
According to the probable cause affidavit, Deputy Benjamin Bottcher used a Taser on Holm after she walked to a nearby truck and began swinging a machete into its bed, where a dog was located.
Holm was incapacitated by the Taser when Maser began crossing the street to apprehend her at which time he was hit by Flegel, who was arriving onto the scene.
Newton said an example of involuntary manslaughter might be if Holm had swung the machete at Maser, causing him to back away into the road and be hit by a car. Because Holm had already been neutralized, however, Newton argued she would likely not be held responsible for Maser’s death.
“It sounds like she was already subdued,” Newton said. “She didn’t cause the situation.”
Cox, in contrast, argued in the probable cause affidavit that by threatening Maser with the machete and ignoring commands from deputies who were attempting to assist her, Holm created the situation that lead to his death.
“Holm’s actions had deputies focused on her due to her continued refusal to put down her machete, move off the roadway, and her aggressiveness toward any vehicle or person who was near her,” Cox wrote in the affidavit. “Holm’s unlawful conduct, the threat she created by wielding a machete in an aggressive manner, her perpetration of the unlawful act of aggravated assault toward Deputy Maser upon his exit of his patrol vehicle, therefore constitutes by statute, that Holm committed involuntary manslaughter when Deputy Maser was struck and killed while trying to detain Holm and make safe a situation Holm was actively creating.”
Newton said he expected Holm’s defense attorney would argue that Flegel was responsible for Maser’s death and that it would help Holm’s case if Flegel was determined to have been negligent when arriving on the scene.
“That makes a much stronger case that she wasn’t the cause of death,” Newton said.
Flegel has been placed on desk duty, pending the results of an internal investigation by the Bonneville County Sheriff’s Office.
A preliminary hearing is scheduled for 1:30 p.m. Sept. 23 in Bonneville District Court.