A Cass County man, who shot and killed his best friend, has learned the price he’ll pay in prison time.
While the shooting was an accident, 23-year old Steven Graham admits that he acted recklessly.
Graham will spend at least five years behind bars on a manslaughter charge for the October 2009 shooting death of 26-year old Patrick Carter of Dowagiac.
“There was gun fire occurring outside the house throughout the afternoon, drinking was taking place, it was a raucous atmosphere, and when you put guns into that mix, tragedy occurs,” said Cass County Prosecutor Victor Fitz.
In court today, Graham carefully read a written statement about how recklessly he acted last October. “And I lost a good friend because of my stupidity and irresponsibility,” Graham told the judge.
Only once did Graham look away from his script to personally address relatives of shooting victim—Patrick Carter.
“I’m so sorry,” Graham said, “I’m so sorry.”
The victim’s mother, Mary Carter, was unmoved: “I don’t see sorryness, I don’t, they can write all the words, they can say all the words they want, but I, until I see the sorryness in them that they are really sorry, I don’t believe they’re sorry.”
On October 19th, Graham and Carter were among 10 or so people who gathered at a mobile home in rural Cass County to protect the woman who lived there from the threat of domestic violence. The prosecutor says it was Graham who insisted that guns be present.
“In this situation, Mr. Carter came out of the bedroom in a friendly, playful, but again, reckless manner, carrying two guns and he went up to his friend (Graham) and they were bantering back and forth, and while that occurred, Mr. Graham also had a loaded gun, it was between his legs, his hand was in the area of the trigger as they bantered back and forth, his gun went off and he killed his friend,” said Prosecutor Fitz.
Statements made in court allege that moments before the fatal shooting, Graham had encouraged another man to fire a shot inside the mobile home: That shot hit a DVD player.
“It could have been prevented that night,” said Mary Carter. “Andrew (Novotny) shot the DVD player first, why wasn’t the guns taken at that time?”
Mary Carter pledged to be at “every parole hearing,” to make sure the Graham “spends as much time as he can.”
Graham’s sentence was lengthened—in part—due to his actions after the shooting. “The actions of Mr. Graham were cowardly,” said Victor Fitz. “He (Graham) ran from the scene. His primary concern was protecting his own hide. He got the guns out of there and tried to escape his responsibility.”
Graham’s sentence also calls for the payment of more than $9,000 in restitution.