Criminal Justice

Cop Kills Cop; Nearby Lady Gets Charged With Manslaughter

Jenna Holm was incapacitated when one cop accidentally killed another. She's now being charged with his death.

|

Jenna Holm is facing prison time for the death of Bonneville County Sheriff's Deputy Wyatt Maser in May of 2020, despite the fact that Maser was killed not by Holm, but by one his fellow police officers.

Maser and his colleague, Deputy Benjamin Bottcher, were called to help Holm, who had crashed her car on a rural road on May 18 of last year. When the deputies arrived, Holm was in the street wielding a machete, screaming. Bottcher, who had interacted with Holm days prior at the Idaho Falls Behavioral Crisis Center, worked to calm her down during what was possibly a mental health crisis. After Bottcher repeatedly tased Holm, eventually subduing her, Maser was walking into the road toward Holm when a third police officer, Sergeant Randy Flagel, arrived on the scene and struck Maser with his vehicle, killing him.

Idaho State Police are now seeking to prosecute Holm for Maser's 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," wrote Idaho State Police Detective Mike Cox in a probable cause 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."

Holm allegedly approached Maser with the weapon prior to being subdued, though she did not harm Maser or Bottcher. At the time Maser died, Holm was on the ground after having been tased for approximately a full minute.

The state brought charges using a lever similar to the felony murder rule, a controversial legal doctrine that allows prosecutors to pursue people on murder charges who didn't actually commit homicide if the death occurred during the commission of another felony. An example: An Ohio teen was charged with the murder of her boyfriend after a police officer shot him in December of 2018 during a botched robbery that she allegedly helped orchestrate.

Eugene Volokh, a professor of law at UCLA law school, says that Idaho prosecutors may have a problem winning this case.

"I'm inclined to say she shouldn't be liable because this guy, the police officer, was killed by another police officer," he says. "I think Idaho law agrees with me on that, because Idaho…adopts the agency theory."

The agency theory—as opposed to the proximate cause theory—holds that you may only be held accountable under the felony murder rule if the murder was carried out by other agents of the crime. The state adopted that line of thought in State of Idaho v. Pina, in which Juan Carlos Fuentes Pina's felony murder conviction was overturned because the actual shooter in question was not an accomplice in Pina's alleged criminal activity. In other words, had Maser been struck and killed by one of Holm's co-conspirators, Holm could be charged. But Holm had no co-conspirators.

"She's not being prosecuted for a death committed as a result of a felony, which would be murder," adds Volokh. "[It] occurred as a result of an unlawful act, which would be manslaughter. In theory, you could imagine that being treated differently….This having been said, the statute for involuntary manslaughter is very, very similar to the statute for felony murder."

Whether or not a jury will be swayed by the analysis remains to be seen. The trial was scheduled to begin on Monday but was postponed last week until February 14 of next year after Holm's attorneys, Rocky Wixom and Jordan Crane, obtained evidence they say could work in her favor.

Neither Wixom nor Crane responded to requests for comment. But the two had somewhat of a victory in June when a judge released the findings of an internal police investigation into Maser's death, which the state sought to conceal. Investigators concluded that Bottcher did not activate his emergency lights, failed to deploy his flashlight, and gave wrong directions, while Maser left off his rear red and blue lights and "stepped up into the roadway in front of Sgt. Flegel's vehicle." The report recommends roadside safety training.

Holm faces up to 30 years in prison. But as Volokh notes, one thing is not in dispute: "She didn't kill him."

NEXT: The Sweeping Texas Abortion Ban That Took Effect Today Is Plainly Inconsistent With SCOTUS Precedents

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. Never call the cops. Ever.

    1. It’s more dangerous to be in front of a cop car than inside a cop car.

      1. Seriously I don’t know why more people haven’t tried this, I work two shifts, 2 hours in the day and 2 in the evening…QAz And i get surly a check of $12600 what’s awesome is I m working from home so I get more time with my kids.

        Try it, you won’t regret it!…….. VISIT HERE

      2. From most reports and from knowing a few cops, directly in front of them at about 25 is the safest place to be when they are shooting

        1. depends: are you the perpetrator or a bystander?

        2. Start working from home! Great job for students, stay-at-home moms or anyone needing an extra income…You can work this job As part time or As A full time job.FWs You only need a computer and a reliable internet connection… Make $90 hourly and up to $12000 a month by following link at the bottom… You can have your first check by the end of this week…Lifetime Opportunity

          This is what I do……………… VISIT HERE

    2. I made over $700 per day using my mobile in part time. I recently got my 5th paycheck of $19,632 and all i was doing is to copy and paste work online. this home work makes me able to generate more cash daily easily.FSz simple to do work and regular income from this are just superb. Here what i am doing.

      Try now………………. VISIT HERE

  2. If Eve hadn’t tempted Adam with an apple, ALL of this immense human suffering all around us for the last ?? $7K years wouldn’t have happened! THAT is why Eve needs to be criminally charged for ALL of this crap!

    (Eve is presumably dead for a long-long time now, so we’ll have to settle for “collective punishment” of all of those with XX chromosomes).

  3. Keystone Cops bungled this and killed one of their own. They are making this worse

  4. wtf Idaho? go, State!

  5. Police want someone other than police to be responsible, but why would prosecutors go along with this?

    1. Police. Prosecutors. Tomato tomato.

    2. Because prosecutors usually need cops who are willing to testify in order to convict other people the cops arrest. If the prosecutor starts going after cops, few cops will help the prosecutor later.

      1. Any state prosecutor that loses the backing of police can kiss his higher-office ambitions good bye.

  6. Suppose it had been a drunk driver that hit the officer. Is the drunk off the hook on the theory that the officer was only on the road because of Holm’s behavior?

    How about if the officer wreck his own car and died ten minutes later, as he drove back to the station. Could they claim the officer wouldn’t have been driving back in the first place if he hadn’t had to deal with Holm’s behavior?

    Butterflies, hurricanes.

    1. Your comment about the drunk driver perfectly illustrates what’s really going on here. They don’t necessarily want to charge HER for the murder, they just want to make sure their baby boy blue is off the hook.

  7. Idaho state cops/DA’s/judges are as bad as anywhere. They’ll kill a disturbed pregnant woman in a hospital parking lot for wielding a knife within seconds of arriving on scene. And nothing else happened.

    1. Shirley it was an Assault Knife.
      Very dangerous they are, with their flash suppressors and bayonet mounts.

      Any word of whether the cops got home safely?

      1. No, and don’t call me Shirley.

  8. Jenna Holm was incapacitated when one cop accidentally killed another. She’s now being charged with his death.

    Well, that didn’t take long.

    As I’ve written before, the Taliban have their hands on all that equipment because America invaded, not because the Biden administration finally brought the 20-year war to an end.

    That cop wasn’t killed because of the negligence of the other officer, he was killed because Jenna Holm was swinging a machete.

  9. But the important thing is that the cops went home safely… wait…

  10. Change her name to Biden and she’ll get off.

  11. Not seeing the mens rea for Involuntary Manslaughter on these facts. Or much mens rea at all, considering she sounds like she was in the middle of a mental illness episode bad enough to take away her appreciation that her conduct was wrong.

    Which used to mean she should be in an asylum, especially as this was a repeat episode, but yeah.

    1. In this case, the “act” would be swinging the machete.

    2. There is no mens rea requirement for involuntary manslaughter. That’s what makes is involuntary.

      1. No, Rossami. It requires recklessness or negligence, not reaching the point of depraved indifference, that results in a homicide. Both recklessness and negligence require some conscious mental state to either disregard a significant risk of harm to another, or to breach a duty to another, with said breach resulting causing the death of another. This woman was out of her gourd, waving a machete at God only knows what in her head.

        She’s asleep (and isn’t asleep through actions constituting recklessness or negligence), or otherwise lacking the required mental state for manslaughter—like here—she hasn’t committed a crime. Even if her unconscious actions result in death for someone else.

        This jurisdiction in Idaho is trying to end around an insanity defense, when the jurisdiction is likely most at fault by not keeping this sick woman locked up.

        1. This jurisdiction in Idaho is trying do an end run over who’s insurance and benefits are going to pay for a govt union member’s death.

    3. There’s no mens rea requirement for felony murder (except I suppose, if the underlying felony has a mens rea requirement)

      1. Sure there is. The mens rea for the predicate “dangerous” felony. Kidnapping, Rape, Arson, Robbery, etc… Choosing to commit a dangerous felony like the above, is choosing to potentially commit all of the reasonably foreseeable conseqences of such felonies, including homicide.

        Assault doesn’t count as a dangerous felony in this regard, due to the merger doctrine. Minnesota is a little weird on this one, as we saw in L’Affaire Floyd.

  12. Why not charge her parents? If they didn’t give birth to her, this never would have happened.

  13. Sgt. Flagel, of course, was not changed with anything.

  14. So, if I call the cops to save my cat from a tree and he hits and kills someone over on the way save my pussy, do I get charged with homicide?

    1. The feline obviously committed felony escape, so it would be the cat the prosecutors would go after.

      1. I believe that’s feliny escape.

  15. In general prosecutors and judges don’t like the the concept, much less the practice, of jury nullification. And yet – yet – they keep trying to prosecute cases like this which cry out for jury nullification. If I lived in the Idaho town where this clown show is being featured, I’d be plastering the town with flyers advising about jury nullification and suggesting that if the reader were in a jury pool and questioned about it, the reader should lie and declare they had never heard of it.

    Yet another example that the best and brightest do not go to law school.

    1. Carey: Does the judge ask, “Have you ever heard of jury nullification?” I would guess the answer is No, because the judge doesn’t want anyone to know there is such a thing, or if they do know about it, to think about it. Instead, I would expect the judge to ask something like, “Do you agree apply the law based on what I say the law is, and not use your own ideas of what you think the law is or what the law should be?”

      Either way, a potential juror, like a witness, swears to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. Do you think it’s a good idea for a potential juror, having so sworn, to lie about whether they’ve heard of jury nullification, or whether they agree to apply the law as the judge says?

      1. The judge, or the prosecutor, is at liberty to ask just such a question if they choose to. (During a voir dire episode I witnessed, one attorney asked, and the judge allowed the question, who the potential juror had voted for in the last [presidential] election.) I agree that it is more likely that a skillful prosecutor will ask indirect questions calculated to reveal that a venireman (potential juror) holds such opinions, and use the information extracted to challenge for cause, or use a peremptory challenge if the challenge for cause is not allowed. Judges have attempted to cite for contempt or have charges pressed for attempting to influence a juror against citizens who were handbilling about jury nullification on a public sidewalk.

        As to whether I think it’s “. . . a good idea, for a potential juror, having so sworn, to lie. . . .” – that is highly dependent on whether that potential juror has an established record of advocating for rightness of jury nullification or has left a paper or social media trail that would make it relatively easy to prove the lie when the juror is later charged with perjury after having exercised jury nullification (which has also happened – Colorado). There is no point in telling an easily exposed lie. That is why, until I “aged out” of jury eligibility, I did not comment verbally about jury nullification, and written comment about it was made from behind a pseudonym (a ruse potentially, but easily penetrated, under normal circumstances and without specific suspicion).

        I do not believe one is honor bound when enmeshed in and dealing with a system that has no honor.

        So the short answer is, “Yes, I think it is OK.”, but you better be sure you can get away with it else you render yourself vulnerable to a vengeful prosecutor.

        1. correction to above: “A ruse potentially, but not easily penetrated . . . .”

  16. She couldn’t kill Maser,
    She’d been it by a Taser,
    So this charge must amaze ‘er.

    1. At least make a full limerick:

      She couldn’t possibly have killed Maser
      Because she’d been laid out by a taser.
      If his colleague could drive
      He’d still be alive
      But a badge is crime charge eraser.

  17. In Cleveland Heights, OH, a man created a disturbance at a drug store and ran off when the manager yelled that he was calling the police. Upon arrival, an overweight cop with a heart condition asked which way the suspect ran, took off after him on foot, and after a couple blocks, dropped dead from a heart attack without ever catching site of the suspect. The man who created the disturbance (minor petty misdemeanor) was charged and convicted of manslaughter and is currently imprisoned.

    It makes me feel better about a police officer being convicted of murder of an individual who had three times the lethal level of Fentanyl in his blood (George Floyd.) At least if you’re going to charge people with deaths that would have happened without them, it’s more fair that it swings both ways.

    1. bw1, you are so stupid that when you make $h1t up it’s transparently obvious. If George Floyd had 3 times the lethal level of fentanyl in his blood, he would not have been alert and conscious at the time. Stop lying about stuff you don’t know anything about.

      1. Closer to 10x, IIRC, but whatever. Floyd had a level of fentanyl, and other drugs, in his bloodstream that was incompatible with life. His body was experiencing pulmonary edema as a result of those drugs, and absent immediately medical intervention to both alleviate those narcotic effects and support Floyd’s cardiovascular system, that edema was going to kill him. Whether he was laying down, sitting in his car, or walking away from the store. The big dummy swallowed his stash, and gave himself an overdose.

        Chauvin had the misfortune of performing a procedure for suspects in similar conditions to Floyd—that Chauvin was given training by his department to do—and looked really bad on video while doing it. Looking bad on video is a mortal sin in 2020 and today.

        1. I feel bad for your bootlicking ass if you actually believe that.

          1. I’ll bet you’ve got a lot of experience in licking, but not boots.

          2. And I won’t be sad when you get the results of the criminal justice system your post indicates you want for this country. Don’t bitch when your things get taken, or your body gets assaulted, by some thug piece of shit who is out of jail because the cops have stopped doing their jobs.

        2. 10x for whom? Lethal levels are going to vary by orders of magnitude for different people with different sensitivity and tolerance.

          1. The average person, which is going to be of little import when dealing with opiates, and opiate addicts. Like Floyd may or may not have been.

            Whatever Floyd’s “lethal dose” of fentanyl and other drugs may have been in a vacuum, the drugs he did take were sufficient to give him a bad enough case of pulmonary edema that his post-mortem lungs were roughly 2-3 times the weight of a normal male of his size. They were that heavy because they were filled with fluid. Floyd was drowning in his own exudate. And the reason Floyd was drowning was because he gave himself an overdose of fentanyl and other drugs.

  18. Weird Binion compares this case to the woman who got off with only 3 years for orchestrating an armed robbery where her accomplice/boyfriend was righteously snuffed by the undercover cop they tried to jack.

    1. I have to agree. The cases are completely unlike each other. In one, you have an organized gang of armed robbers who got shot. In the other, a woman who should have been in a hospital was subdued and then there was a fatal car accident.

      The only thing I can say is that I don’t think either of them should be charged with homicide, but at least the robbers were committing crimes with weapons.

  19. Pulling people over for hanging air freshener makes me want to turn in my dash cam footage of cops not using turn signals. Towing Denver

  20. There’s another case, this one even more blood-curdling, of cops engaging in a series of cover-ups to protect a fellow Scottsdale, AZ cop who had just committed a hit-and-run while intoxicated. If the narrative found in misc.legal (Google Groups) under the heading, “Arizona cops frame lady to cover-up hit-and-run by drunken Cop” (by Scottsdale Citizen) is true, a nest of cops engaged in a felony conspiracy to prosecute an innocent citizen — Yessenia Garcia — because she had a similar car parked near the collision.

    The Garcia car was then damaged to make it look like it had struck the injured pedestrian. Only problem was that a security camera captured the creep who damaged Yessenia Garcia’s car while it sat innocently in its parking place.

    I hardly ever get shocked by the evil actions of bad cops, but this one shocked and shook me.

  21. Now that what happened has leaked out into the national media, and no less than Volokh has opined that this prosecution is ridiculous, I guarantee the prosecutor will drop the charges. For sure one the judges will ex parte inform him that they’ll be dismissed if they take it to court.

  22. Charges like these further confirm we live in Clown World!????

  23. This is silly to the extreme. By this logic, if I am arrested for jaywalk and while ticketing me, the office is struck and killed by a passing ambulance, somehow or a light pole falls on him and kills him, I should go to prison for man slaughter? Yeah. Not buying it.

  24. How proximate is proximate? What about other crimes being committed at about the same time, in the same city/town? If those criminals were not out & about lawbreaking, no cops would be risking their lives, getting killed whatsoever. Charge everyone arrested that day. Everyone? EVERYONE!
    Yea, that’s the ticket, let’s all go psycho.

  25. Absolutely pathetic! If the cop had shot vs tased this person would the other cop have still have killed his comrade?

Please to post comments