Monday, April 7, 2014

Prosecutors elect not to try former Little Rock police officer Josh Hastings for a third time

Posted By on Mon, Apr 7, 2014 at 10:07 AM

click to enlarge Josh Hastings at the courthouse today - BRIAN CHILSON
  • Brian Chilson
  • Josh Hastings at the courthouse today

Pulaski County prosecutors appeared before 5th Division Circuit Judge Wendell Griffen 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. Griffen accepted the state's motion to nolle pros the case.

Chief Deputy Prosecutor John Johnson told Griffen that Moore's family objected to the decision not to retry Hastings. From the bench, Griffen said, "A nolle pros is not an acquittal. Every lawyer knows that ... I don't try them. I just judge them." He also added that he didn't know if the case will later be refiled and said: "Nobody needs to walk out of here thinking that Bobby Moore's death was not a tragedy." 

During  the hearing, Johnson said Hastings' two trials were conducted in different ways, which resulted in "diametrically opposed" jury deadlocks. He said the prosecution believes Hastings is guilty of manslaughter, but also believes they will never convince a jury of that to the point of reaching a unanimous verdict. You can read the prosecution motion seeking to nolle pros the case here:  hastings_nolle_motion.pdf

Hastings' attorney Bill James said Hastings will seek a civil service hearing to get his job with the Little Rock Police Department back. "He did what he had to do," James said of Hastings shooting Moore.

"There are no winners here," James said outside the courthouse,"a family lost their son, his buddies lost their friend, Mr. Hastings lost the better part of two years of his life dealing with this." James said that Hastings and his family are happy that they can move on with their lives, adding that he can't imagine that new evidence would be brought forward that would lead to the case being reopened. He said that he believes the civil service commission "will see what the jury saw" in considering Hastings' petition for reinstatement as an officer and Hastings won't be limited by being unable to argue self defense.  

Outside the courthouse immediately following dismissal of court, a woman who identified herself as Deazzaray Perkins, Bobby Moore, Jr's sister, went on a tearful rant before gathered media cameras, saying that the family hadn't received justice. She said Hastings killed her baby brother, and that the family hadn't been able to spend holidays with him for three years. She said she was not happy with the outcome, and asked how people are supposed to have respect for the justice system, given her brother's case. "My little brother didn't get justice, so therefore there's nothing left for us," she said. KARK has video of Perkins' comments. 
click to enlarge Deazzaray Perkins - BRIAN CHILSON
  • Brian Chilson
  • Deazzaray Perkins

Hastings shot Moore in the early morning hours of Aug. 12, 2012, as Moore and two other teens attempted to flee in a stolen Honda Civic from the parking lot of Shadow Lake Apartments at 13111 W. Markham, where Hastings had been dispatched to investigate a car burglary. Hastings told investigators he fired because the car was speeding toward him and he feared for his life, but police said that further investigation produced discrepancies between Hastings' account of events and the evidence.
Hastings has been tried twice on the manslaughter charge, with both trials ending in hung juries. In the first trial, in June 2013, Hastings took the stand in his own defense, saying that he fired to protect his own life. Testimony during Hastings' first trial also centered around competing accident reconstructionists, who refuted and supported, respectively, Hastings' statement to investigators that the Honda driven by Moore had been coming at him so fast that after he shot and jumped clear of the oncoming car, the Honda hopped a curb and traveled up a rock-covered slope several yards before rolling back off the curb and down a hill before crashing into a parking awning. John Bentley, the reconstructionist hired by the prosecution, gave testimony that Hastings' account was impossible given the lack of damage to the plastic fascia and undercarriage of the Honda. The defense reconstructionist, Dale Donham, testified that he had found scratches on the undercarriage of the Honda and on the rocks of the slope. He had also carried out videotaped re-enactments of Hastings' account with similar Honda Civics, but — as prosecutors pointed out — the cars in those tests did not roll back off the rocky slope.
click to enlarge Prosecutor John Johnson talks to Moore's family before the hearing this morning. - BRIAN CHILSON
  • Brian Chilson
  • Prosecutor John Johnson talks to Moore's family before the hearing this morning.

The jury in Hastings' first trial came back hung on June 23, 2013 after deliberating for two days, with the final count being 10 for conviction and two against. A juror who wished to remain anonymous later spoke to the Arkansas Times, saying that the two female holdouts "couldn't get past the badge." 

In the second trial in Sept. 2013, Hastings never took the stand, and neither did either of the two accident reconstructionists, leaving the most dramatic testimony to be that of the two teenage friends who were in the car with Moore when he was killed. That trial ended in a mistrial on Sept. 26, 2013, after 12 hours of deliberations. Reports said the jury was split 11-1, with 11 jurors in favor of acquitting Hastings. 
 

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