The Justice Files: Accused acquitted of murder, guilty of obstruction

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PROVO, Utah (ABC4 Utah) –  Elbert Paule never denied shooting Dominique Barnett.

He admitted to using a shotgun to kill Barnett who was at his doorstep at an apartment in Orem.

In March, 2019, Barnett died from the gunshot and Paule was later arrested and charged with his murder.  But Paule claimed it was self defense

“I don’t want to kill anybody,” Paule said during his recent trial.  “It’s my belief I feel like nobody would want to kill anybody.”

In addition to murder, the Utah County attorney charged him with obstruction of justice, recklessness and assault.

But at his trial, Paule took the stand in his own defense and told jurors why he shot Barnett.

He claimed Barnett had threatened a lady friend days before the murder. Paule confronted Barnett about the threats and told him to stop it.  He also said Barnett then threatened him as well.

On the day of the shooting Barnett arrived at Paule’s apartment.  The woman was inside with Paule but was in a different room when there was a knock on the door.  Paule said the knocking continued and retrieved his shotgun when he realized who was at the door.  When he returned to the door Barnett was still knocking.  That’s when Paule decided to open the door.

“He had like an angry, like maybe an aggressive expression on his face and I saw that he was holding a fairly large knife in his hand,” Paule testified.

Paule recalled that on a previous occasion Barnett threatened to use the knife on his female friend and her family.

He said he felt threatened when he saw the knife in Barnett’s hand.

“I saw the knife,” Paule said.  “I made eye contact with him.  He took a step forward.  I took the shot.  To be quite frankly honest, I was fearing for my life.”

During the trial other witnesses confirmed Barnett’s past threats. A jury deliberated for an afternoon and returned the next day with a not guilty verdict on the murder charges.  But the jury did convict him of obstruction of justice.  He was also acquitted of the two other lesser charges of recklessness and assault.

“He was very relieved,” said his attorney Rudy Bautista.  “His family and both him had tears in their eyes. It was very, very dramatic.”

His attorney said Barnett was a well known gang member and had a lengthy criminal history.  During the trial Bautista convinced jurors that Barnett was the aggressor.

“(Barnett’s) intent was to come over and commit a burglary and when you go over to someone’s house and you enter their house to assault them, that’s committing a violent felony and the law says you get to use deadly force to defend yourself,” Bautista said.

But Paule will remain in the Utah County jail on the obstruction of justice charge.  He could face  one to 15 years in prison when he’s sentenced April 22.

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