Judge drops manslaughter charge against woman accused of causing deputy’s death
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IDAHO FALLS —- A woman is no longer facing a manslaughter charge after prosecutors alleged she indirectly caused the death of a deputy in 2020.
In a decision filed Thursday, District Judge Dane H. Watkins Jr. ordered the dismissal of a felony involuntary manslaughter charge against Jenna Holm. The decision came after Holm’s defense attorneys tried for a second time to have the charge dropped based on Idaho law and legal precedent.
“Probable cause does not exist to believe Holm committed involuntary manslaughter,” Watkins wrote in court documents obtained by EastIdahoNews.com.
The charge was dismissed without prejudice, meaning prosecutors could seek it again in the future.
Holm is still charged with felony aggravated assault for the May 18, 2020 incident where Bonneville County Sheriff’s deputies responded to a roll-over crash. They found a distraught Holm wielding a machete. As more backup arrived, Bonneville County Sheriff Deputy Wyatt Maser was struck and killed by another deputy responding in a patrol SUV.
Defense attorneys previously compared the charging of Holm to someone being charged with manslaughter if a law enforcement officer had been hit and killed while writing a ticket. In his decision to dismiss, Watkins addresses the concern.
“The standard the State seeks to impose would permit convictions of involuntary manslaughter in any number of situations where law enforcement responds to any unlawful act, presumably including minor infractions,” Watkins wrote. “Such is not the law in Idaho.”
Watkins further said prosecutors provided no previous legal case that would support the charging of Holm. The judge also wrote how prosecutors have not alleged or given any facts that indicate Holm and the deputy behind the wheel of the SUV that killed Maser, Sgt. Randy Flagel, acted in a common plan to commit a crime that resulted in the fatality.
Despite prosecutors putting the blame for Maser’s death on Holm, earlier court documents that are now sealed show an internal investigation indicated multiple factors were at play during the incident – from deputies not using proper lighting techniques to giving the wrong directions over the radio, investigators recommended the addition of roadside safety training and safety policy changes to prevent further incidents.
A jury trial on the assault charge is scheduled for February.