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Charges Against Game Warden Dropped

Posted: Updated: Nov 20, 2007 07:24 PM EST

Manslaughter charges against game warden Robert Ham have been dropped in Greene County. Ham had been charged with voluntary manslaughter after he killed 16-year-old Allen Cochran during a traffic stop in January.

Police were trying to stop Cochran because they thought he might have another teen with him who had been reported missing. Ham had been assigned to Greene County and was helping deputies that night.

Ham claimed the shooting was in self-defense and that Cochran hit him with the car and knocked him onto the hood. That's when he fired two shots to save his own life.

Tuesday, a judge completely cleared Ham of any wrongdoing in the shooting death. While the ruling was good news for Ham and his family, there was hardly a smile in the courtroom when the judge announced his decision.

Ham's defense attorney said that even though this decision was the best new his client could get, the situation is a tragic loss that has changed two families forever.

"There was no crime. This was a necessary and justifiable shooting," said defense attorney Steven Benjamin. "It's a tragedy. It was a tragic loss of life, and it's a tragedy for everyone involved in the case, but it was not a crime."

Allen Cochran's father, Glen Shifflett, said justice was denied. "I would have liked to see him found guilty, or at least went to trial and let the jury found out."

He also said the night his son died changed his life forever. "That was my only son. There is no way to bring him back," said Shifflett.

But Benjamin said making life or death decisions is not a choice any officer wants to face and it's a night his client will never forget.

"It's been tough for this young officer. He is and is going to be a very good officer and, unfortunately, this experience is what's going to make him an even better officer," stated Benjamin.

The Green County Commonwealth's Attorney had asked the judge to suspend prosecution in the case. But the defense said the charges should be completely dropped because Ham shot Cochran in self-defense. The judge dropped them and said that look at the evidence in the case that no trial could find Ham guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

Reported by Joanna Shrewsbury

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