Why Murder Charges Were Dismissed Against Ben Carter and His Bail Reduced by $1 Million

Ben carter

Ben Carter

Yesterday, murder charges in the shooting death of Zachery Chapman were dismissed against Ben Carter and, as a result, today, bail was reduced from $1,250,000 to $250,000.

“It’s not that we can’t prove that [Carter] shot [Chapman]. It’s is that we can’t prove it wasn’t self defense—which we have to do,” explained Deputy District Attorney Andrew Isaac.  Benjamin Carter was arrested last May in Arizona after having fled the state. He was initially charged with murder in the death of Chapman.


Benjamin Carter used this photo to prove his identity when on the run from law enforcement.

While on the run, Carter contacted this reporter and stated that he had shot Chapman in self-defense. According to Carter’s account, Chapman initially pulled a gun on Carter’s wife and his sister-in-law and then turned the gun on Carter.

Carter stated he had been holding a shotgun belonging to Chapman with the intention of returning it when Chapman pointed the handgun at him. He said he was afraid that Chapman would shoot.

“Out of fear and reaction I brought his shotgun up and discharged the single round it had in it in his abdomen,” Carter claimed. “I’m thinking he had intentions of doing something I just don’t know what… . He was slamming dope and doing heroin and shit.”

According to Will Houston of the Times Standard, Chapman’s “autopsy found that he had a potentially lethal dose of methamphetamine in his system.”

Isaac said that the witnesses to Chapman’s death all say that he was pointing a gun at Carter. “The stories all agree,” he said. “Even from witnesses that didn’t like Carter.” He called the situation “a solid self-defense case.”

So why did Carter flee? Isaac said he believed it was because Carter knew that he would be brought up on another charge and have to go to prison. “He’s a felon. He’s not supposed to have guns,” Isaac explained.

In fact, Isaac said, he believes that Carter is going to go to prison for that charge. Isaac said that his office is not offering to advocate for a reduced sentence in return for Carter’s guilty plea. “There is no deal on the table for the gun charge…He is either going to plead [guilty] or he is going to be convicted,” he stated.

Isaac said that Carter clearly had a firearm. “He admitted it to you,” Isaac said in reference to the emails and calls he made while hiding from law enforcement. Being a felon in possession of a firearm will result in jail time, he said. “That is a three year felony,” he pointed out. That sentence, Isaac said, will be doubled because of a prior conviction for first degree burglary in 2002. Carter could be out in three years with good behavior, said Isaac.

Carter, he said, already has four felonies but those felonies would need to be “a serious or violent crime” for them to count under the Three Strikes Law. “Most are not a serious or violent crime, ” he said. Only the burglary conviction meets that criteria.

As a result of yesterday’s charges being dismissed, courtroom blogger John Chiv say’s Carter’s bail was reduced by $1,000,000. “Mr. Carter’s criminal record and the fact that after the events in question Mr. Carter  fled the county and was apprehended in Arizona,” were factors in the judge’s decision to impose a larger bail than was customary for the charge, said Chiv. (To read more of Chiv’s account of today’s hearing, click here.)

UPDATE 5/15: John Chiv said Ben Carter will proceed to jury trial on July 6.

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