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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.

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Speaking of Bobby Moore, Josh Hastings

  • Another damaging look at Little Rock police department, beginning but not ending with Josh Hastings case

    November 2, 2018
    Radley Balko of the Washington Post has rolled out another long-term project on the Little Rock Police Department today, this one built around Josh Hastings' fatal shooting of a burglary suspect, Bobby Moore, and "a horror show of misconduct, cover-up and cascading institutional failure at the department." /more/
  • Black officers file suit against LRPD, alleging discrimination

    March 12, 2018
    Saying the Little Rock Police Department is riddled with racism and racial discrimination, attorney Mike Laux announced this morning that he has filed suit against the city on behalf of three black LRPD officers and one former LRPD officer who say they were discriminated against by the LRPD through a pattern of lack of promotions, lower salaries and uneven discipline when compared to their white counterparts on the force. Laux said two other black officers will join the plaintiffs once they receive approval to sue from the Equal Opportunity Employment Commission. /more/
  • Thorn in the LRPD's side

    October 12, 2017
    Civil rights attorney Mike Laux has spent years taking on the LRPD over fatal shootings of suspects. He isn't done yet. /more/
  • Family of man shot by LRPD last October files suit

    August 31, 2017
    Chicago attorney Mike Laux and the family of a 46-year-old man killed by officers with the Little Rock Police Department last October held a press conference this morning at the Arkansas State Capitol to announce the filing of a civil rights lawsuit against the officer involved, LRPD Chief Kenton Buckner and the City of Little Rock. /more/
  • The Countdown Edition

    April 14, 2017
    The pending executions of seven men, a verdict in the civil rights lawsuit against Josh Hastings and more on the Little Rock School District, the state Board of Education and the upcoming LRSD millage — all covered on this week's podcast. /more/
  • Jury awards $415,000 in suit against Josh Hastings over suspect's fatal shooting

    April 13, 2017
    A federal jury has awarded $415,000 in damages in the civil lawsuit against Josh Hastings, a former Little Rock police officer, in the 2012 slaying of Bobby Moore, a suspect in car burglaries at a West Little Rock apartment complex. /more/
  • Closing in Hastings shooting trial set Wednesday

    April 11, 2017
    A federal court jury is to hear closing arguments Wednesday in the trial of a lawsuit by the mother of Bobby Moore against former Little Rock police officer Josh Hastings for his fatal shooting of Moore during investigation of a car burglary in 2012. /more/
  • Judge affirms dismissal of city of Little Rock in lawsuit over fatal police shooting

    March 26, 2017
    Federal Judge Brian Miller has affirmed his decision to dismiss the city of Little Rock and former Police Chief Stuart Thomas as defendants in a lawsuit brought by the mother of Bobby Moore, killed by then-Office Josh Hastings in 2012. /more/
  • To the briefs: Some reading in Little Rock police shooting lawsuit

    February 27, 2017
    Late last week, the attorney for the plaintiff in the lawsuit over former Police Officer Josh Hastings' killing of a car burglary suspect asked for a rehearing of Judge Brian Miller's finding that the city and a former police chief could not be liable in the case. /more/
  • Judge drops city, former chief from Hastings suit

    January 27, 2017
    Federal Judge Brian Miller has issued a summary judgment in favor of the city of Little Rock and retired Police Chief Stuart Thomas in Perkins v. Hastings, a suit claiming that the city and the chief failed to train, discipline and supervise Officer Josh Hastings. Hastings was the officer who was tried twice for manslaughter in the shooting of Bobby Moore; both trials ended in mistrials. /more/
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