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Trapper Claude Dallas, who said he killed two Idaho...

By MARK SHENEFELT

CALDWELL, Idaho -- Trapper Claude Dallas, who said he killed two Idaho game wardens in self-defense, Wednesday was found guilty of manslaughter by a district court jury.

Prosecutors had sought a first-degree murder conviction in the Jan. 5, 1981 slayings of Idaho Fish and Game officers Bill Pogue and Conley Elms when they went to the trapper's camp to investigate poaching.

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Judge Edward Lodge set a tentative sentencing date of Dec. 1 and ordered a presentencing report. He directed the eight deputies ringing the courtroom to return Dallas to the county jail.

Dallas faces a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison on each of the two manslaughter counts. The jury also found him guilty of two counts of using a firearm in the commission of a crime. Each count carries a maximum sentence of three years. Prosecutor Clayton Andersen said he was baffled the jury did not distinguish between the killings of Elms and Pogue. He said he thought there should have been a harsher finding in the death of Elms, who was an innocent bystander.

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Dallas testified he shot the men in self-defense when Pogue threatened his life, then went for his gun. Pogue and Elms were each shot twice in the back of the head.

Prosecutors and defense attorneys agreed the trapper's testimony was crucial in the jury's decision to free him of murder charges and convict him on the lesser offense, but for different reasons.

'Claude Dallas in the courtroom and Claude Dallas at Bull Camp were two different individuals,' said Andersen, who contended Dallas killed the wardens merely because he disliked lawmen and had sworn he would never be arrested.

'I think he lied on the stand,' Andersen said.

Defense attorney Michael Donnelly said Dallas' 'sincere' testimony possibly saved him from a death sentence.

'We're still disappointed,' Donnelly said. 'We wanted 'not guilty' verdicts on all counts.'

Donnelly said he believed Dallas would have been acquitted if the victims had not been law enforcement officers. He said juries tend to give more credibility than warranted to lawmen.

'We take some pleasure in saving a man's life, but Claude Dallas could serve a long time in jail,' said Bill Mauk, another defense attorney. Andersen, however, said he was astonished that the jury returned identical verdicts in the killings of the two officers, since testimony indicated Pogue and Dallas were at the center of the confrontation while Elms was a bystander.

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'Claude Dallas in the courtroom and Claude Dallas at Bull Camp (site of the killings) were two different individuals. I think he lied on the stand,' the prosecutor said.

Defense attorney Michael Donnelly said Dallas' 'sincere' testimony possibly saved him from a death sentence.

'We're still disappointed,' Donnelly said. 'We wanted 'not guilty' verdicts on all counts.'

Bill Mauk, another defense attorney, said 'We take some pleasure in saving a man's life, but Claude Dallas could serve a long time in jail.'

The bearded, bespectacled defendant stood quietly, his hands clasped in front of him, as the verdict was read. He showed no emotion as the foreman, Milo Moore, read the findings of the panel in a hushed voice.

The jury took six hours to reach its verdict after an alternate replaced a juror who was disqualifed. Up to that point, the jury had been deadlocked for five days.

Jimmie Hurley, a public relations spokesman for the Snake River Stampede rodeo in Nampa, was taken off the jury because she admitted considering 'extraneous information' in reaching her opinions.

She said the information was something a witness' testimony prompted her to recall about something she had heard before the trial. She said it would not have influenced her opinion and claimed the other jurors wanted her off the panel because 'they didn't agree with me.'

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Lodge rejected a prosecution plea for a mistrial and a plea from Dallas that the remaining 11 jurors be allowed to finish deliberations. Instead, he seated an alternate and ordered deliberations to begin anew.

Prosecutors put witnesses on the stand to testify Dallas -- who had served a prison term in Ohio in 1973 for failing to submit to military service -- had sworn he would not be arrested again.

Those witnesses also said Dallas felt state game laws applied only to sportsmen, not to 'mountain men' who shoot game and trap to survive in the wilderness.

Defense lawyers countered with testimony from Nevadans who said Dallas was a peaceful, quiet man not prone to unprovoked violence. Other defense witnesses portrayed Pogue as an arrogant, overzealous law officer who provoked trouble.

Dallas ran away after the shootings and remained at large for 15 months until his capture April 18 in a shootout near Paradise Hill, Nev.

The panel exonerated the defendant on charges he resisted arrest during the encounter with the victims, but convicted him of concealing evidence following the slayings.

Dallas stood quietly at the defense table as the verdict was read, his hands clasped in front of him. He showed no emotion as the foreman, Milo Moore, read the findings of the panel in a hushed voice.

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Judge Edward Lodge set a tenative sentencing date of Dec. 1 and ordered a presentencing report in the case. He directed the eight deputies ringing the courtroom to return the defendant to the county jail.

The bearded defendant had taken the stand in his own behalf to testify he shot the men only after Pogue drew a handgun and threatened to kill him. He said the shooting of Elms came as an involuntary reaction when, as Pogue slumped to the ground, the second warden reached for his weapon.

Prosecutors alleged Dallas shot the men in cold blood because they were trying to arrest him for poaching bobcats. They sought a first-degree murder conviction in the case, which could have meant imposition of the death penalty.

The jury deliberated for 40 hours over five days before a juror was disqualified for relying on information gained outside the courtroom in forming her opinion.

Lodge rejected a prosecution plea for a mistrial and a plea from Dallas that the remaining 11 jurors be allowed to finish deliberations. He appointed an alternate who sat through the trial to sit on the jury, and a verdict was returned less than six hours later.

Dallas remained at large for 15 months following the shootings. He was finally captured April 18 in a shootout with lawmen at a trailer near Paradise Hill, Nev. -- a small desert town which served as the trapper's base of operations.

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The suspect, temporarily bound to a wheelchair because of a foot wound he sustained during the gunfight, was taken to Reno and extradited to Idaho to face the capital murder charges.

Dallas was initially taken to the tiny Owyhee County Jail in Murphy. But his attorneys argued the safety of their client could not be guaranteed in the facility, and Lodge agreed to move the inmate to a cell in Caldwell.

Details of the shootings at Dallas' camp on a sagebrush flat near the Owyhee River slowly unfolded during the 18-day trial.

Prosecutors put witnesses on the stand to testify that Dallas -- who had served a jail stint in Ohio in 1973 for failing to submit to military service -- had sworn he would not be arrested again.

Those witnesses also said the bearded, bespectacled defendant felt that state game laws applied only to sportsmen, not to 'mountain men' who shoot game and trap to survive in the barren desert wilderness.

Defense lawyers countered with testimony from Nevadans who said Dallas was a peaceful, quiet man not prone to unprovoked violence. Other witnesses took the stand to say they had met Pogue while fishing or hunting in Idaho, and found the conservation officer to be belligerent and arrogant.

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Dallas himself testified for five hours, saying he shot the men only after Pogue threatened to kill him and pulled a gun. The defendant said he dumped Elms' body in the muddy Owyhee River and carted Pogue's body in a truck to a burial site 20 miles outside of Winnemucca, Nev.

Details supplied by Dallas on the burial location prompted an intense search in early October of a sagebrush plain at the foot of the Bloody Run mountains by Humboldt County sheriff's deputies.

After two days of digging and the location of several scattered human bones, searchers uncovered a shallow grave containing a nearly-intact skeleton. Idaho pathologists last week confirmed the remains were those of Pogue.

Pogue's ashes were spread by plane across the rugged Sawtooth wilderness last Sunday.

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