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By MATT ARMSTRONG
Daily News Staff Writer
Jurors in the trial of Joshua J. Wodyga for the death of Levi Adams finished deliberating and came to a verdict just before 2:30 p.m. Friday in Ketchikan Superior Court. The 12-member jury found Wodyga guilty of criminally negligent homicide and not guilty of manslaughter.
Wodyga, 33, was found guilty of the Class B felony after the jury deliberated for about three hours on Thursday and approximately five-and-a-half hours Friday. Manslaughter is a Class A felony.
Adams, a 32-year-old-man from Leawood, Kansas, died on Oct. 8, 2013, of carbon monoxide poisoning and drowning while he and Wodyga were diving commercially to harvest sea cucumbers in the waters off Mountain Point.
Assistant District Attorney Ben Hofmeister argued that Wodyga’s negligence in maintaining an air compressor and air filter used by both men while diving led to Adams’ death, while Mark Osterman — a lawyer with the state’s Office of Public Advocacy who served as Wodyga’s counsel — contended that the death was an accident and was partly due to Adams’ inexperience as a diver.
The air compressor used by Wodyga was not intended to be used for breathing by humans and was labeled as such. The compressor Wodyga used was designed for use in a workshop and to power pneumatic tools.
Osterman, following the verdict, said he was disappointed in the outcome because he thought the jury did a "Solomon cut."
"King Solomon never cut the baby in half, but anytime I’ve had a jury where there’s two possible (charges), it always seems they always reach one," Osterman said. " ... There simply was no evidence. I gotta just keep asking the question: What went wrong with the compressor that my client could do maintenance on?
"Overall, I appreciate this jury," Osterman added. "I believe in the jury system, and I very much appreciate this jury. I may not agree with their verdict, but I very much appreciate them."
Osterman can appeal the verdict in the future.
Hofmeister, after the verdict, said that the most important thing to come from the trial is a level of accountability for Adams’ death.
"I think that there was an argument to be made as to both counts, and the jury, I think that they did a very good job and had a difficult decision to do in the first place," Hofmeister said.
Adams’ parents and sister were in Ketchikan for the week-long trial.
"I think they’re glad that there’s a certain level of accountability," Hofmeister said after speaking to Adams’ family following the verdict. " ... There has to be a certain level of accountability, and accountability definitely comes with consequences when you’re talking about things like this."
Superior Court Judge Trevor N. Stephens set Wodyga’s sentencing for 1 p.m. May 4. The maximum sentence for a Class B felony is 10 years.