When a cop kills 

A Pulaski circuit court jury hung 10-2 in favor of a negligent homicide conviction for former Little Rock Police Officer Josh Hastings, who gunned down the driver of a car on an apartment complex parking lot last August while investigating car burglaries.

Hastings wasn't sure who was in the car, though he had some reason to believe it was car burglars. He also told a story about the shooting that — based on expert testimony and testimony from the dead 15-year-old driver's companions — seemed inconsistent with the facts.

A majority of the jury saw it that way, we know from reporting by the Times' David Koon. They didn't think Hastings was in danger from the car. They think he acted recklessly. They considered it all carefully over two days and favored conviction on a lesser charge of negligent homicide — Hastings also was charged with a more serious manslaughter charge — was appropriate.

But two female holdouts opposed any conviction from the first. By one juror's account, they simply couldn't get past Hastings badge. The holdouts reportedly said that Hastings had prevented future crimes by killing Bobby Moore, 15. I shouldn't need to tell you that this isn't a legal justification for use of deadly force — prophylactic execution.

Bobby Moore had a nasty police record at a young age. His juvenile companions were offenders, too. Defense Attorney Bill James managed to make much of that, though he had been instructed not to do so by the judge and was fined $25,000 for contempt of court for ignoring the order to shut up about juvenile records.

The prosecution — in its first prosecution of a police killing in my 40 years in Little Rock — followed the rules. It did not, because it legally could not, introduce abundant evidence of Hastings poor work. He was fired not only for failing to follow department rules on use of deadly force in this shooting. He also was fired for inadequate response to an unrelated burglary and for not telling the truth to supervisors about it. He'd also been suspended six times in five years for offenses ranging from sleeping on duty, to leaving his patrol area, to failure to appear as a witness at scheduled court hearings.

I saw positives in the mistrial. A white cop shot a young black thug in the dark of night and trotted out the tried-and-true police defense that he was threatened. But the police and prosecutor did a thorough investigation and filed charges. An all-white jury then came within a hair of conviction. Even some law-and-order types conceded — while shedding few tears for the dead youth — that Hastings' judgment was questionable and some said they believed that his father's position as an admired police captain undoubtedly gave young Josh an edge in the department on previous troubles.

The prosecution will retry the case. Whatever the outcome, Hastings is unlikely to get his job back. That, by the way, will be a decision fully supported by his record, not a reaction to the current legal controversy over allegations of racially unequal treatment of both cops and suspects by the LRPD.

The reported attitude of the holdout jurors indicates how thin the blue line is between the law and vigilante justice. Cases like Hastings' — prosecution for use of deadly force — are rare. Not rare are garden variety police rousts of equally unpleasant suspects in the dark of night. These should always get the same rigorous review that the Hastings case received. Cops who disrespect the boundaries of the law should get no more leniency than teenage carjackers. Happily, at least 10 Pulaski County jurors demonstrated this week that they believe that.


Speaking of Bobby Moore, Josh Hastings

  • Attorneys for man shot by police will press for a new trial of shooter

    June 23, 2016
    Attorneys for the family of Bobby Moore, killed in 2012 by a Little Rock police officer investigating car break-ins, will hold a news conference today and call for another attempt to prosecute Josh Hastings in the death, citing a witness never interviewed by police. /more/
  • Little Rock fights for police records secrecy in civil rights lawsuit

    December 10, 2015
    KARK reports that the city of Little Rock is attempting to put under seal information about allegations of misconduct by police officers in the civil rights lawsuit over the shooting death of 15-year-old Bobby Moore in 2012. /more/
  • Suit against Josh Hastings and city alleges LRPD's 'custom of acquiescence to police misconduct'

    June 1, 2015
    This morning, lawyers filed a federal civil rights lawsuit over the shooting death of Bobby Moore, the African-American teenager killed by former Little Rock Police Department officer Josh Hastings at a West Little Rock apartment complex on August 12, 2012. The suit — brought by Moore's mother, Sylvia Perkins — names as defendants Hastings, former LRPD chief Stuart Thomas and the City of Little Rock. /more/
  • Lawsuit planned against LR police over teen's shooting death

    May 29, 2015
    Attorneys said today they expect to file a federal civil rights lawsuit against former Little Rock officer Josh Hastings, the former police chief, Stuart Thomas, and the city of Little Rock over the Aug. 12, 2012 shooting death of Bobby Moore. /more/
  • Supreme Court upholds one contempt citation in Hastings trial, but reverses nine issued at conclusion

    June 26, 2014
    The Arkansas Supreme Court today upheld one, but reversed nine contempt citations Circuit Judge Wendell Griffen had issued against defense attorney Bill James in the manslaughter trial of former Little Rock police officer Josh Hastings. /more/
  • Hastings files to be reinstated with the LRPD

    April 8, 2014
    Less than 24 hours after manslaughter charges against him were dismissed, former LRPD officer Josh Hastings has filed for a hearing with the Civil Service Commission which could help him regain his position with the department. Little Rock attorney Bill James tells KTHV that he will represent Hastings in his hearing before the commission, and will submit evidence that the jury wasn't allowed to hear. /more/
  • Bobby Moore's mother speaks out about Hastings case dismissal

    April 8, 2014
    The mother of Bobby Moore III, the 15-year-old shot by former Little Rock Police officer Josh Hastings in Aug. 2012, is speaking out about the dismissal of manslaughter charges against Hastings yesterday. Sylvia Perkins, Moore's mother, told THV This Morning today that the dismissal of the charges has been a nightmare for her family. Perkins said that she prays that Josh Hastings isn't able to regain his position with the police department. Hastings' attorney Bill James said yesterday that Hastings plans to seek a civil service hearing to try and get his job back. "Closure and justice," Perkins said. "That's all I want. That's all I ever wanted." /more/
  • Prosecutors elect not to try former Little Rock police officer Josh Hastings for a third time

    April 7, 2014
    Pulaski County Prosecutors appeared before 5th Division Circuit Judge Wendell Griffin this morning to inform the court that they will not seek to re-try former Little Rock Police officer Josh Hastings for a third time on charges of manslaughter in the August 2012 death of Bobby Moore, Jr., a 15-year-old Hastings shot during a call at a West Little Rock apartment complex. /more/
  • Hastings seeks dismissal of manslaughter charges

    April 3, 2014
    Former Little Rock Police Officer Josh Hastings has asked Judge Wendell Griffen to throw out charges against him to spare Hastings another trial on a charge of manslaughter. Hastings has already been tried twice in the death of Bobby Moore, Jr, 15. who Hastings shot during an early-morning burglary call at a West Little Rock apartment complex. Both of Hastings' earlier trials — the first in June 2013 and the second in September 2013 — ended in hung juries. A retrial in the case is scheduled for next month. /more/
  • Judge issues written order on contempt fine in Josh Hastings case

    February 25, 2014
    Circuit Judge Wendell Griffen has now put in writing his contempt finding of defense attorney Bill James over his actions during the manslaughter trial of former Little Rock patrol officer Josh Hastings. Feb. 5, the Arkansas Supreme Court dismissed James' appeal of the finding and a $25,000 fine because there wasn't a written order for the court to consider. He reduced the fine to $5,000. /more/
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