Excerpt of Walla Walla County Prosecuting Attorney James L. Nagle's letter explaining his decision to decline prosecution of John Saul. The complete letter can be read below.
Walla Walla Walla Walla County Prosecuting Attorney Jim Nagle will not file charges against John Saul, 63, in the shooting death of Cesar Chavira, 22.
A six-person coroner’s inquest jury ruled Friday that Saul committed a justifiable homicide. The ruling by a majority of jurors came after two days of testimony from law enforcement officers and a forensic pathologist.
According to a Walla Walla County Sheriff’s Office investigation conducted by Detective Sgt. Gary Bolster, Chavira broke into the New York Store at roughly 2:30 a.m. on May 4. According to testimony from Walla Walla police officers, Saul stated Chavira threatened him during the burglary.
Bolster’s investigation showed that Saul fired his 12-gauge shotgun five times at a distance between 120 and 155 feet, striking Chavira in the back with nearly 50 pellets of No. 4 buckshot. Chavira was in the street outside the store when Saul fired the shots.
In a letter stating his decision not to prosecute, Nagle stated the Washington State Legislature and Supreme Court have “made it clear that” a person should not be charged with murder or manslaughter “when they are defending themselves, their property, or against a felony, unless the prosecution has sufficient evidence to prove the absence of any of the defenses to a jury beyond a reasonable doubt.”
Nagle also pointed out the slayer does not have to prove the homicide was justifiable. According to Nagle, the jury must be convinced “beyond any reasonable doubt that a person was not defending themselves, their property or against a felony.”
“The jury verdict of the coroner’s inquest indicates how difficult the prosecution of this case would be,” Nagle wrote in a the letter sent this morning.
“However, had any of the particular facts in this case been different, the reasonableness and necessity of (Saul’s) actions would be highly doubtful, and he would likely be facing serious charges,” Nagle added.
Mike Hubbard, Saul’s attorney, said Nagle’s decision is “the right and just choice,” and added that Saul is sorry for the shooting death.
“John is a very peaceful, nonviolent type of guy,” Hubbard said. “It’s been extremely hard on him.”
Michelle Trombley, an attorney with the Kennewick law firm Rodriguez and Associates, stated Chavira’s family will sue Saul, despite the coroner’s inquest verdict. Trombley could not be reached as of press time Monday.
Terry McConn contributed to this report.