Debate began last week in the case of a Lake Havasu City man convicted on felony charges in the alleged drive-by shooting of a television personality’s son.
Members of the jury say they regret their guilty verdict in the shooting of California resident Garrett Dotson, the son of A&E Network’s “Storage Wars” host Dan Dotson. But according to prosecutors, 22-year-old Garrett Wilder had his day in court.
There’s no easy part to serving on a jury. To justify a criminal conviction, a jury must believe that the state of Arizona has proven a defendant’s guilt - such that no reasoning person could ever question it. But when the persons questioning that decision are the jurors themselves, it may raise another legal argument altogether.
Two weeks ago, Deputy Mohave County Public Defender Paul Amann filed a motion for a new trial in Wilder’s case after four jurors came forward to express doubt as to their own verdict. When deliberating on last month’s trial, Amann says 10 members of Wilder’s jury were in favor of acquitting him on charges including drive-by shooting and aggravated assault. Amann said in his motion that the jury forewoman Susan Kokkinen convinced her fellow jurors to convict Wilder on the charge of drive-by shooting, believing the sentence for the crime would be less than that of aggravated assault.
The penalty for aggravated assault under Arizona statute is 5-15 years in prison. The penalty for drive-by shooting is 7-22 years in prison. According to Amann, the jury would likely have rendered a full acquittal if they had known the difference, and Kokkinen’s suggestion to her fellow jurors was in itself an act of juror misconduct.
Deputy Mohave County Attorney Kellen Marlow filed an argument Friday against Amann’s motion for a new trial. According to Marlow, Kokkinen’s alleged statements during jury deliberations do not in themselves justify a new trial in the case. The jury was instructed by the court not to consider sentencing in the case when reaching its verdict - but according to Marlow, the jury’s apparent failure to obey the court’s instruction is also not justification for a new trial under Arizona statute.
“The defendant has failed to show jury misconduct sufficient to warrant a new trial,” Marlow wrote in his argument. “His motion should be denied.”
The shooting took place Sept. 13, 2020, while Dotson was staying in a rental home on the 2100 block of Injo Drive. According to police statements, Dotson had returned to the residence after an evening with friends, and was standing in front of the location with an acquaintance when Wilder drove past the rental property. Police said that Wilder shouted at Dotson from the window of his vehicle, and told Dotson to “go back where he came from.”
Wilder later testified at his trial that he said nothing of the kind.
Police said that Dotson approached Wilder’s vehicle to confront him, and Wilder shot the victim from the vehicle’s window before leaving the scene.
Emergency first responders transported Dotson to Havasu Regional Medical Center, before he was flown to a Las Vegas hospital for life-saving medical treatment.
The search for Dotson’s shooter ended one day later, when a witness to the incident came forward and identified Wilder to police.
According to the police report, Wilder told detectives when questioned that he believed Dotson and his companion intended to harm him at the scene, and attempted to pull open the door of his vehicle. Wilder allegedly told detectives - and later his jury - that he shot the victim in self defense.
Sentencing in the case is now set for Dec. 20. The court is scheduled to hear attorneys’ arguments for and against Amann’s request to overturn Wilder’s conviction on Dec. 1.