Another hung jury on Hastings manslaughter charge; prosecutor will retry | Arkansas Blog

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Another hung jury on Hastings manslaughter charge; prosecutor will retry

Posted By on Thu, Sep 26, 2013 at 4:56 PM

click to enlarge STANDING BY: An increased Little Rock police presence was in evidence around the courthouse this morning as a jury continued deliberations in a manslaughter case against a former Little Rock cop. - FOX 16/DAVID GOINS
  • Fox 16/David Goins
  • STANDING BY: An increased Little Rock police presence was in evidence around the courthouse this morning as a jury continued deliberations in a manslaughter case against a former Little Rock cop.

click to enlarge NO VERDICT: Josh Hastings leaves the Pulaski County Courthouse after today's mistrial. - LESLIE PEACOCK
  • Leslie Peacock
  • NO VERDICT: Josh Hastings leaves the Pulaski County Courthouse after today's mistrial.
UPDATE: A circuit court jury again failed to reach a unanimous verdict in the trial of former Little Rock officer Josh Hastings for fatally shooting a carburglary suspect in August 2012.

The jury had reported it was deadlocked at 3 p.m. Judge Wendell Griffen gave the jury the so-called "dynamite charge," an instruction urging jurors to "harmonize" their views — that, is reach a verdict. He said a delay in a verdict was a delay in justice.

The jury resumed deliberations, but reported about 4:45 p.m. that it remained deadlocked after almost 12 hours of deliberation over two days. The judge declared a mistrial and discharged the jury. We don't know yet how the jury split. In June, the hung jury favored a conviction.

From David Goins at Fox 16 a quote from Prosecuting Attorney Larry Jegley: "We will go forward with another trial. We want a verdict one way or another"

The judge set a third trial for May 5-23.

The parties were held in the courtroom for a time, apparently to discuss a contempt of court issue with defense attorney Bill James, who was remonstrated by the judge early in the trial for bringing up subjects — particularly the victim's criminal record — that weren't to be considered in the case. James has been quoted by KTVH as saying he might have the right to a jury trial for a contempt of court charge. James' attorney, Jeff Rosenzweig, is among those speaking in the courtroom, according to observers looking from outside.

POST-TRIAL UPDATE: David Koon here. After the jury was dismissed, Jeff Rosenzweig argued in Bill James' defense on the contempt charge, with Rosenzweig and Judge Wendell Griffen sparring over the circumstances in which James found himself at cross purposes with the court. On the first day of the trial, James had approached the bench before a break with the jury still in the room and attempted to present proffer testimony about a gun being found in the car Bobby Moore was driving the night he was killed, and the fact that the car was stolen — facts that Griffen had previously forbidden from being discussed in the presence of the jury. After the jury was dismissed for their break that day, Griffen found James in contempt. 

Griffen told Rosenzweig that there is a reason he always asks if the defense and prosecution has anything more to request of the court after the jury has been dismissed on breaks: to keep previously prohibited information out of the jury's earshot. Eventually, Griffen allowed James to clear the contempt charge by stating that he understood the court's rule and would abide by it in the future. The last Hastings trial ended with Griffen levying $25,000 in fines on James for 10 contempt of court citations. 

In dismissing court after the jury had left today, Griffen thanked everyone involved, then said: "We'll have to do this again, but such is life." Josh Hastings and his family were quickly hustled from the courtroom and, reports Leslie Peacock, were rushed to waiting cars by at least seven Pulaski County deputy sheriffs. After a moment, the family of Bobby Joe Moore III was allowed to leave. As they filed out of the courtroom into the hallway, a woman who had been sitting with the Moore family loudly said "Is this justice?" and was admonished by bailiff Paul Drone. 

Later, Chief Deputy Prosecutor John Johnson spoke to reporters outside the courtroom. He said that while the defense can "spin" the facts of the case any way they want to, it is the job of prosecutors to present those facts. Johnson said the two trials had been expensive for the county, requiring the hiring of expert witnesses and other expenses. Asked if prosecutors would, in fact, go ahead with a third trial for Hastings, Johnson said "Why not?" before saying it was a flip answer and elaborating with: "We have facts at this point that need to be heard... that's what we intend to do." 

Asked why the prosecution didn't call accident reconstructionist John Bentley, whose testimony had seemed devastating to Hastings' contention that Moore was coming at him fast enough that the car jumped the curb and continued up the rocky slope behind him, Johnson said that Bentley's testimony served only to rebut Hastings' testimony about the car going up the slope. Because Hastings didn't take the stand during the second trial, Johnson said, they didn't need to call Bentley. "There's nothing to rebut," Johnson said. "We have two kids who say they were sitting still or going backwards [when Hastings fired]. We don't have to rebut him [saying they drove] up the bank."

In closing, Johnson reiterated that they plan to go forward with a third trial for Hastings. He said that, in spite of the two previous outcomes, he believes the case is, in fact, winnable — though he hinted at the difficulty in trying a former police officer. "We think the facts indicate the guilt of the defendant in an overwhelming fashion," Johnson said. "It's just trying to get a jury to get past things that really have nothing to do with the guilt or innocence of the defendant."


From earlier today:

David Koon is at the courthouse this morning as a jury resumed deliberations in the manslaughter trial of Josh Hastings, a former Little Rock police officer, who fatally shot Bobby Moore III, 15, as he drove a car in a West Little Rock apartment complex parking lot last August. Hastings contended he was threatened by the car. The prosecution said the car was stopped or moving backward and that Hastings didn't need to fire on the car.

Moore was accompanied by two friends. They'd been breaking into cars. After the shooting, police learned the car was stolen, that Moore had a prior record and that there was a gun in the car. But the jury has been prevented from learning these things, which weren't known to Hastings, either, when he fired.

The jury deliberated about five hours yesterday. It could convict on the manslaughter charge, reduce it to negligent homicide or acquit Hastings. A jury of seven women and five men, two of the women black, are deciding a case in which the plaintiff is a white former police officer and the victim a black youth with a criminal record. The presiding judge, Wendell Griffen, is black and has made a point of announcing that he was going to take steps to assure racial bias didn't play a role in the outcome, including by his taking control of questioning of potential jurors. Hastings' first trial ended in a hung jury. The all-white panel split 9-3 for conviction.

UPDATE: The jury is having pizza for lunch. That suggests a decision isn't close at hand. The jury also asked again to hear the audio tape of the police call about the shooting.

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