September 10, 2011 in City

Manslaughter case ends in mistrial

Pair tied to fatal blast guilty of lesser charges
By The Spokesman-Review
 

A jury failed to agree Friday on manslaughter charges against two men implicated in the explosion of a homemade device that killed a Chattaroy man last fall.

After a two-week trial, the jury voted 11-1 to acquit 36-year-old James J. Crouchman of second-degree manslaughter and 9-3 to acquit 20-year-old Christapher A. Harris of first-degree manslaughter. Both were in connection with the Nov. 6 explosion that killed Cody R. Hathaway outside a costume party.

Because jury verdicts must be unanimous, the judge declared a mistrial on the manslaughter charges. However, the jury convicted both men of possession of an explosive device and Harris on the additional charge of possession of a stolen firearm.

“It’s a tragic case,” said defense attorney Chris Phelps, who represented Crouchman. “No matter how the verdict came out, it doesn’t relieve the pain and anguish of the Hathaway family. Nobody was going to leave happy.”

Harris brought the device and other homemade bombs to a party. Crouchman told police that he lit one of the devices. After a period of time, Hathaway approached it and it exploded. A piece of metal severed arteries in his neck and he died at the scene.

Harris – who wasn’t invited to the party – then took bomb-making materials out of his apartment and dumped them in Idaho.

The victim’s father, Randall Hathaway, said he hopes the case serves as a lesson about the dangers of homemade devices.

“I just hope that people realize the difference between fireworks and building bombs,” he said.

Gloria Hathaway, the victim’s mother, said her son had tremendous potential.

“Everyone gets to go on with their lives, but Cody doesn’t have a choice,” she said. “I don’t know how to go on without him.”

Defense attorney James Kirkham, who represented Harris, said Deputy Prosecutor Dale Nagy has already indicated to him that he wants to retry the case. Sentencing on the other matters has not yet been set.

Crouchman is facing a few months and Harris faces about a year in prison on the convictions, Kirkham said.

“Clearly this is a tragedy all the way around,” Kirkham said. “The fact that they weren’t able to reach a verdict is indicative of the difficulty of the case.”


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