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Appeals court upholds manslaughter conviction in child shooting death

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The Michigan Court of Appeals says a father whose daughter killed his son with an illegal firearm will remain in prison for manslaughter and child abuse.

As a convicted felon, Christopher Head was not supposed to have a firearm. And certainly not an illegal sawed-off shotgun – which he kept loaded in an unlocked closet in a room where his children played. The kids decided to re-enact a violent video game, which resulted in the 10-year-old accidentally shooting her 9-year-old brother.

Head was sentenced to up to 50 years in prison. He challenged his convictions, but the appeals court agreed with the lower court that it was Head’s “gross negligence” that caused his son’s death.

From the unanimous appeals court opinion:

“It goes without saying that a loaded shotgun poses a danger to young children who are not being monitored by an adult. Defendant had the ability to avoid the harm by ordinary care and diligence. Setting aside the fact that it was illegal for him to possess the weapon, as he was a convicted felon, and the fact that the weapon itself was an illegal shortbarreled shotgun, defendant could have taken other actions—short of giving up his illegal possession of the gun—to avoid the harm, such as removing the ammunition from the weapon or placing it in a secure location where his children would not have had access to it. By allowing his young children to play unsupervised in a room where he kept a loaded, readily accessible shotgun, defendant failed to use the requisite care and diligence; he failed to avert a threatened danger where the result was likely to prove disastrous to his children.”

As a convicted felon, Head was also sentenced as a habitual offender and for illegally possessing a firearm.