Wednesday, June 27, 2018
Ninth Circuit Vacates Bear Killer’s Conviction
By a MetNews Staff Writer
A Montana man’s conviction in federal court for killing a protected bear was vacated and remanded for retrial by a panel of the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court yesterday.
The unanimous decision, written by Circuit Judge Richard C. Tallman, provides a second chance for Brian Charette, who was convicted of killing the grizzly in 2016.
Charette claims he shot the bear “because it was running towards [him] and chasing the dogs that are there to keep… the bears out of [his] immediate backyard.” U.S. District of Montana Judge Dana L. Christensen applied an objective standard for self-defense at the bench trial. Charette declined to testify, believing he would only be able to prove subjective self-defense.
That lower standard of proof is the correct one to apply in ursine attacks, Tallman noted. Quoting United States v. Wallen, a Ninth Circuit case from last year, he wrote:
“The subjective standard ‘is satisfied when a defendant actually, even if unreasonably, believes his actions are necessary to protect himself or others from perceived danger from a grizzly bear.’”
Charette will be permitted to present evidence of his state of mind during the killing at retrial.
The case is United States v. Charette, 17-30059.
Despite adorning our state flag, the last known California grizzly bear was reported shot and killed in 1922. James Agnew, who reported shooting the bear, was a rancher in the Sierra Nevadas. He claimed to have only been protecting his cattle, not himself. Fortunately for Agnew, the federal Endangered Species Act, which includes the prohibition against killing grizzlies without a permit, did not become law until 1973.
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