Jury acquits Westwood man on attempted murder charge; DA refiles attempted voluntary manslaughter complaint

A jury of eight men and four women acquitted a Westwood man of attempted murder but failed to reach a verdict on a lesser but included charge of attempted voluntary manslaughter in Lassen County Superior Court Thursday, April 25.

Kevin Allen Roberts, 36, was found not guilty of attempted murder, but the jury deadlocked 7-5 on the lesser but included charge of attempted voluntary manslaughter.

Lassen County Superior Court Judge Mark Nareau accepted the not guilty verdict on the attempted murder charge.

Saying he didn’t want to know which way the jury was leaning, Nareau asked the foreman of the jury about the final vote on the attempted manslaughter charge. The foreman said the vote was 7-5. Nareau gave more instructions to the jury and then asked the foreman if those instructions might help the jury reach a verdict. When the foreman said, “No,” Nareau thanked the jury and dismissed the jurors.

After two separate hearings — one on Thursday, April 25, and one on Friday, April 26, Nareau ruled the district attorney may file attempted voluntary manslaughter charges against Roberts, and the district attorney’s office filed an amended complaint Friday, April 26. A five-day jury trial is scheduled to begin at 9 a.m. June 17.

Nareau, prosecutor David Evans, Lassen County District Attorney Susan Rios and defense attorney Stephen King researched the double jeopardy issue that arose in the case — did the jury’s not guilty verdict on the attempted murder charge bar the prosecution from filing a lesser but included charge of attempted voluntary manslaughter and would such a filing amount to double jeopardy?

Nareau ruled in accordance with California law, such a filing would not constitute double jeopardy.

 

Alleged crime committed more than a year ago

According to a statement from the Lassen County Sheriff’s Office last April, on April 5, 2018 officers served a search warrant on a residence in Westwood and arrested Roberts as part of an investigation into an attempted murder. Several items of evidence linked to the shooting were seized as evidence pursuant to the search warrant.

Roberts was arrested, charged with attempted murder, being a prohibited person in possession of a firearm and being a prohibited person in possession of ammunition.

According to the statement, on March 31, 2018 deputies responded to a report of a man who had been shot multiple times. Investigation of the shooting led detectives to an area in Westwood where multiple shell casings were discovered. The victim suffered multiple gunshot wounds and was transported to a Chico area hospital for treatment.

Investigation revealed the victim and Roberts were in a verbal altercation on the streets of Westwood in the early morning hours of March 31, when Roberts pulled a firearm and shot at the victim multiple times, striking him twice.

 

Opening statements

Evans said Roberts and the victim have known each other for a long time, and Roberts was the previous boyfriend of the victim’s girlfriend. He said Roberts and the woman have a child together. The victim and the woman had an argument earlier in the day of the shooting, and Evans said the victim was at woman’s residence picking up his stuff when Roberts, armed with a .22 handgun confronted him.

Roberts allegedly fired a shot in the ground and had to clear the gun when it jammed. He cleared the gun, and it jammed again.

King acknowledged his client has “a checkered past,” and he intended to put both Roberts and the victim on the stand. He told the jury while law enforcement will tell their version of the events based upon their investigation, “they weren’t there” when the shooting occurred.

He told the jury this case wasn’t a “whodunit,” but he said when Roberts shot the victim he feared for his own safety and that of his ex girlfriend and his child. King said during the confrontation, Roberts backed away from the victim about 100 feet, and in the past the victim had beaten Roberts so badly he required hospitalization.

“There are very few saints and lots of sinners in this case,” King said.