After a lengthy nine month investigation, as reported in the Idaho Stateman, Idaho Attorney General Lawrence Wasden has announced that state and federal prosecutors have declined to prosecute Adams County deputies, Brian Wolf and Cody Rolland, who shot and killed Council Idaho, Rancher Jack Yantis, firing a total of 20 shots on November 1, 2015,with 12 shots striking Yantis and resulting in his dealth.
We have previously reposted several other / articles about the incident, which resulted when law enforcement requested Yantis’ assistance in putting down one of his bulls that had been hit by a car right in front of his house, on the highway that runs through his ranch.
In a separate Statesman article, it was reported that both Wolf and Rolland had previously been disciplined in previous law enforcement departments.
According to Wasden, state and federal prosecutors determined that in their opinions there is not sufficient evidence to find the deputies guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, so they chose not to file criminal charges against the officers. As Wasden alluded, that does not mean the deputies have been cleared of any wrongdoing. There is no question, they will still have to answer to a civil wrongful death lawsuit, probably asserting, among other things, federal civil rights violations. It’s hard to say exactly what the outcome of that case will be, but I will venture to guess that it will be settled. And if the defendants, their attorneys, and their liability insurance carrier have a lick of sense, they will settle the case sooner rather than later, and for a significant sum of money.
One of the things to bear in mind here is that there is a different burden of proof in criminal cases than there is in civil cases. In criminal cases, guilt must be established beyond a reasonable doubt. In civil cases the burden is mere preponderance of the evidence, which is a much lower standard. So even though the evidence in this case may not have been sufficient to satisfy the criminal burden of proof, it may very well be more than sufficient to satisfy the civil burden.
Although I have been involved in a few of these sorts of cases, I don’t pretend to be an expert. But one of the biggest concerns I have with respect to an expeditious and satisfactory resolution is that insurance defense attorneys notoriously feel compelled to drag cases out so that they can milk them as long as possible. We used to have a joke that regardless of the merits of a case you could never get insurance defense counsel to consider settlement until they had been able to go to Phoenix to take depositions — and play golf — at least twice in the winter time.
At this point, although the officers will not face criminal charges, recognizing the disputed evidence and the highly questionable circumstances in this case, hopefully Adams County will recognize the prudence of seeking to make things right with the Yantis family as quickly and expeditiously as possible.