State completes its manslaughter case against Josh Hastings | Arkansas Blog

Thursday, June 20, 2013

State completes its manslaughter case against Josh Hastings

Posted By on Thu, Jun 20, 2013 at 2:33 PM

JOSH HASTINGS: His defense has begun.
The state today completed its case on the manslaughter charge against former Little Rock police officer Josh Hastings for fatally shooting Bobby Moore Jr., 17, a car burglary suspect, on an apartment complex parking lot. Hastings has said the car was driving toward him and he feared for his life. The police, in charging Hastings, said he'd acted recklessly and the shooting wasn't justified.

The defense has begun presenting its witnesses.

David Koon reports on action this morning:

The prosecution put on crime scene examiners this morning, including blood, DNA and firearms examiners. Dr. Daniel Dye, associate state medical examiner, described wounds to Walker's chest, middle finger of left hand the fatal wound that entered the left side of the head.

Dye said that one would have had to have his head turned as if looking over the shoulder to make the two paths roughly parallel. Dye said the edges of the wound were irregular, owning to the bullets having hit the 'intermediate target" of the windshield. He said windshield holes lined up with wounds to chest and head, as if head was turned looking back.

On cross-examination, Hastings' attorney, Bill James, asked if the slumped posture in which the victim's body would up could have been due to driving in a "lowriding" stance, with left hand on wheel and elbow on the car's center console. Dye said possibly. Dye also agreed with James that the body could have been tossed around inside the car during impacts. James asked if being shot could have pushed BM back and to the right, exposing the left side of the head. Dye said it could, but later on redirect by Deputy Prosecutor John Johnson, Dye said "the energy from the bullet striking the body is not important" and wouldn't have knocked the body back as gunshots do in the movies and on TV. Dye said the pain of being shot could have caused the victim to recoil.

Dye told Johnson that the proximity of the shots to the body indicated that either had no way to escape, or the shots came in rapid succession. Dye eventually said he couldn't say with a reasonable degree of medicial certainty that either the defense or prosecution theory of Moore's posture when he was shot was more plausible, though he went on to say that James' idea of Moore moving back and forth "like a bobblehead doll" is "not as good." On cross by James, however, he said: "each theory is reasonable."

After the jury left, James brought a motion for directed verdict on negligent homicide and manslaughter, saying the state hadn't proved that Hastings acted recklessly. Judge Wendell Griffen denied the motions.

James said the defense will call 9 or 10 witnesses, and 3 will be longer witnesses.

UPDATE: More from Koon.

Defense attorney Bill James put Josh Hastings on stand after lunch. Hastings said, "That vehicle was trying to run me over." He said car was moving forward when he shot.

Hastings said it was his lifelong dream to be a police officer, because he wanted to experience "the joy of being able to go out and help people."

The night of the shooting, he saw three people in a car at Shadow Lake apartments, he said. He went behind dumpster while waiting for his partner to get in position in case they ran. He said when the car pulled out and headed his way, he stepped 1 to 2 feet off curb and identified himself. In the courtroom, Hastings shouted, "Little Rock Police! Stop the vehicle!" twice, the sound echoing in the chamber.

Hastings said, "I fired my weapon... the vehicle just barely goes by. The vehicle runs up on the embankment, then rolls backward."

He said the driver's door was locked, and he had to go around and slip his hand in the passenger door, which was wedged against a pole, to hit the unlock button.

Asked by James if he had another choice but to fire, Hastings said, "No sir, I did not have a choice."

On cross examination by Johnson, Hastings agreed the car traveled a continuous speed as it approached. Shown a diagram completed during questioning after shooting, Johnson reminded Hastings that he'd said the car was 30-40 feet when he revealed himself, and 5 feet when he shot.

Referring to Hastings' statement to police, Johnson grilled Hastings over his estimate that the car was going 25-30 mph as it approached. Hastings said the figure had been a "guess," but that he couldn't recall the actual speed of the car, even today. He said investigators were "really wanting a number," so he gave them one.

Johnson pointed out that Hastings referred or agreed to 25-30 mph five times in the statement. Hastings insisted that was always a guess. Just before the break, Johnson got Hastings to narrow it down to "parameters," before getting Hastings to say he believes the car was, in fact, going 25-30 as it approached.

Hastings appeared flustered, and Johnson offered to let him take a break. Judge Griffen allowed one.

Read on for completion of Hastings' testimony:

Back from break, Hastings again said he couldn't recall if car travelling 25-30... said he believed it at the time of his statement to police, but can't recall today.

John Johnson, referring to defense tests with identical Honda, said test with car going 13 mph resulted in test car getting stuck on embankment... that car had to be put in reverse to be backed off embankment instead of rolling back as Hastings claimed. Hasting said he didn't recall the test. Hastings denied that the car didn't actually go up the embankment the morning of the shooting. He denied he made up the story and that the car was stopped or in reverse when he shot. Hastings said he believed the car was coming fast enough to kill or injure him.

Prosecutor Johnson noted that at 25-30 mph, the car would have traveled the five feet Hastings said it was from him when he fired in less than a quarter of a second. Asked if Hastings expected the jury to believe he could fire three shots, hit his target twice, and have time to get out of the way in a quarter-second.

Hastings said: "I was there. That's the way it happened," later adding he didn't know how he did it. Again, Johnson asked if the car stopped in from of him. Again, Hastings said, " The car tried to run me over."

Johnson eventually got Hastings to admit that at a speed of 25-30 mph, he had no idea if it was the suspects in the car. Johnson noted that in statement to LRPD, Hastings couldn't ID the color of the car on night of the shooting,

Hastings said he fired because "I was trying to stop the threat" and protecting his life. Johnson asked if Hastings had to shoot instead of just getting out of the way, and Hastings said he did, though he admitted his shooting didn't stop the car.

Johnson asked if the shooting accomplished anything other than taking Moore's life given that Hastings claimed he was both able to shoot and get out of the way without injury, and Hastings replied several times that he shot to protect his own life and "stop the threat."

After some brief questions by James, Hastings stepped down.

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