San Miguel man won’t be retried for death of wife

Charges were dropped Wednesday against a San Miguel man who had been accused of involuntary manslaughter in the shooting death of his wife.

The District Attorney’s Office decided not to retry John Aaron Norris after a recent trial resulted in a hung jury.

“It doesn’t bring Tasha (Norris) back,” defense attorney Ilan Funke-Bilu said. “It’s bittersweet, but we’re gratified that the DA did the right thing. It’s time to move ahead.”

The trial in San Luis Obispo Superior Court resulted in nine jurors voting in favor of not guilty and three in favor of convicting Norris.

The 12 members of a jury must agree for a verdict to be rendered. In cases of a deadlock, the district attorney has the right to retry a case.

Norris also was charged with possession of an illegal firearm, and the jury was deadlocked with the same vote count on that allegation. The district attorney dropped that charge as well.

“Based upon the prior evidence and the jury’s interpretation, the District Attorney’s Office won’t pursue a retrial against Mr. Norris,” Chief Deputy District Attorney Jerret Gran said.

Norris, who appeared distraught in a video of his police interview, told investigators that a dog tripped him as he was trying to make sure the gun was clear of ammunition, and it fired, with the bullet striking his wife.

The involuntary man-slaughter charge depended on whether the shooting was criminally negligent or whether the gun went off accidentally during Norris’ attempt to secure it.

Prosecutors argued that he should have taken reasonable measures to prevent the shooting — such as using the safety lock and observing the attached magazine.

A juror, who didn’t want to reveal his name because of his desire to maintain his privacy, told The Tribune after the case was over that he voted not guilty on the involuntary manslaughter charge, saying that Norris’ statement that he was in the process of securing the weapon when the shooting happened was credible.

And, the juror said, he wasn’t convinced beyond a reasonable doubt a crime had been committed.

Norris, 25, was not present in Judge Michael Duffy’s courtroom Wednesday.

Norris faces a separate misdemeanor charge of driving under the influence in a separate alleged incident and is scheduled to appear in the courtroom of Judge Jacquelyn H. Duffy — Judge Michael Duffy’s wife — Sept. 2.