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This time to the Lumberjack. 

The source said the decision to not indict Kyle Zoellner was based on self-defense, but to their understanding the grand jury’s task was to vote only on murder or manslaughter. On April 19, 2017 Zoellner pled “not guilty” to a charge of murder and was released on May 5, 2017 after Humboldt County Superior Court Judge Dale Reinholsten said evidence was insufficient to hold him.

Buckingham never told the grand jury that Zoellner made a claim of self-defense in the murder of Lawson, according to the source. During the preliminary hearing on May 4, 2017, Arcata Police Department Detective Todd Dockweiler was asked by Assistant District Attorney Roger Reese if Zoellner thought about pulling out a knife because he was getting beaten up. Zoellner said “he wouldn’t do that” and “he would rather take a beating than stab someone,” Dockweiler said. The mention of self-defense was never made.

David Wise, a San Francisco criminal defense attorney, said a grand jury’s objective is to decide whether or not there is probable cause and enough evidence to indict or not indict a person who may have committed a crime. Wise has 26 years of legal experience and went on to say if a defendant never claims self-defense but claims innocence, then that is a decision for a regular jury, not a grand jury.

“They can decide the acts they heard can determine the murder was malicious, but they wouldn’t say it was because of self-defense,” Wise said. “The grand jury is there to decide on either indictment or no indictment, and self-defense never comes into play.”

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