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Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Opening statements in trial of Josh Hastings, cop charged with manslaughter

Posted By on Wed, Jun 19, 2013 at 10:43 AM

TRIAL BEGINS: Josh Hastings (left) in court today with his attorney Bill James.
  • Brian Chilson
  • TRIAL BEGINS: Josh Hastings (left) in court today with his attorney Bill James.

FOR THE PROSECUTION: Deputy Prosecutor John Johnson
  • Brian Chilson
  • FOR THE PROSECUTION: Deputy Prosecutor John Johnson
David Koon has provided summaries of opening statements in the trial of former Little Rock police officer Josh Hastings, charged with manslaughter in the fatal shooting of a car burglary suspect, Bobby Moore Jr., 15.

Deputy Prosecutor John Johnson said Moore and his companions were committing crimes, but Hastings had acted recklessly and not in self-defense.

Defense attorney Bill James countered that Hastings believed he was about to be run over and that investigators had overlooked physicial evidence damaging to the state's case. He said Hastings was doing his job that night; the others involved were committing crimes.

More details from David follow:

UPDATE: More below.

First, the summary of the prosecution from David:

John Johnson started with scene setting: Bobby Moore, Jeremiah Johnson, 14, and Keontay Walker, 17, driving around Shadow Lake apartments just before 5 a.m. on the day of the shooting, then seeing a light that turned out to be Hastings' flashlight. Saying he wouldn't sugarcoat why they were there, he told jury the three were breaking into cars. "They were out there for all the wrong reasons. They were out there breaking the law."

Johnson said as they were leaving the parking lot of Shadowlake, they were "just driving normally, because they don't have any reason to think anyone is out there until they see that light."

Johnson said Keontay and Jeremiah remember the shooting a bit differently. One said Moore was either stopping the car or coming to a stop when Hastings fired. The other said car was at a full stop, and that he felt car shift into reverse. 1st bullet hit windshield wiper. 2nd bullet hit Moore's ring finger and then his chest, exiting right armpit. 3rd bullet hit Moore just above left ear and lodged in brain just above right ear. Johnson says trajectories mean Moore was probably turned as if looking backwards. Car rolled back 190 feet and hit a pole and a parked car.

Moore's companion separate and run. After calling Moore's sister, Keontay went back to crime scene, where he was picked up by cops from a crowd of spectators. He told cops Jeremiah was in the car. Both were interviewed separately, which Johnson says will figure into the case because they never had a chance to "get their stories straight," even though many details are consistent.

Johnson says police found no evidence that car Moore was driving had gone up on the rock slope and then rolled back, as Hastings said, even though " it might be the most well-documented piece of real estate in the city of Little Rock."

Johnson closed by saying that while Moore and his friends needed to be arrested, Moore didn't deserve to be killed. In the case, Johnson told the jury: "self defense isn't a defense." He said Hastings' decision that night was "just straight up reckless behavior."

Then came the defense:

Bill James started by saying the case was about choices, and the choice Hastings made was to put on the uniform of the LRPD at the beginning of his shift, just like other members of his family. Of the four people involved in the shooting, James said: "Three of them were breaking the law, and one was doing his job."

James said Hastings was dispatched, saw the three breakinginto cars, waited for backup behind a dumpster, then revealed himself when the car started to drive away, shining his flashlight and loudly identifying himself. "They knew there was a police officer there before the car even started moving forward," James said

James said there will be no evidence submitted that shows the car was in reverse at the time of the shooting. Said examination of the filaments in the broken reverse lights of the car didn't show they were lit at the time the Honda hit the pole and parked car. Said defense tested a car identical to the one driven by Moore, running it up on the "rip rap" granite rock slope that Hastings claimed the car ran up on after he shot before rolling back. He said test car suffered damages similar to the actual car. He said the LRPD got "tunnel vision" when they didn't see much damage to the granite rock slope, and never did their own tests with an identical car.

James said defense estimates car was going 15 mph when Hastings shot.. 22 ft per sec. "That's not real fast, unless it's coming right at you." Said Hastings believed he was about to be run over.

In closing, James said "We don't need self defense" to prove Hastings not guilty. "The facts will not get you to a conviction."


Several members of the victim's family rushed out when first photos of Bobby Moore's body, slumped over center console of the Honda civic, were shown. Judge Griffen halted Deputy Prosecutor Johnson's presentation, conferenced with attorneys and sent the jury out.

After the jury left, Griffen talked about people leaving the courtroom without consulting the baliffs. He told the baliff that because those people had disregarded the explict instructions of the court that were delivered yesterday about not leaving the courtroom during testimony, those people would be banned from the courtroom for the rest of the trial, and will be held in contempt if they try to reenter. Griffen said rules about leaving were to prevent distractions to the jury during testimony. He reminded the gallery that the court has summary contempt powers that allow him to jail or fine those who make a disturbance. "I have no reservations about exercising those powers," he said.

Prosecutor Johnson requested that two people, who had left when image was projected — one of whom was Bobby Moore, Sr. — be allowed to return for the trial. Griffen said the two could return.

The court recessed with the image of Bobby Moore's dead body — dressed in a white T-shirt, red shorts, bright red socks and black flip flops — lingering on a 60-inch TV beside the empty jury box for several minutes.

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