Favorite

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.

Favorite

From the ArkTimes store

Speaking of Bobby Moore, Josh Hastings

Comments (5)

Showing 1-5 of 5

Add a comment

 
Subscribe to this thread:
Showing 1-5 of 5

Add a comment

More by Max Brantley

Readers also liked…

  • Neighborliness, in Little Rock and beyond

    I had a parochial topic in mind this week — a surprise plan by Mayor Mark Stodola to address the Arkansas Arts Center's many needs.
    • Nov 19, 2015
  • Bootstraps for me, not thee

    Mean spirit, hypocrisy and misinformation abound among the rump minority threatening to wreck state government rather than allow passage of the state Medicaid appropriation if it continues to include the Obamacare-funded expansion of health insurance coverage for working poor.
    • Apr 14, 2016
  • Trump: The Obama of 2016?

    Conner Eldridge, the Democratic challenger to incumbent Republican U.S. Sen. John Boozman, launched an assault on Boozman Monday morning rich with irony and opportunity.
    • May 5, 2016

Most Shared

  • Trump unfit

    Even as an oligarch, President Trump turns out to be breathtakingly incompetent. Is there any reason to suppose he's even loyal to the United States? Does he even understand the concept? Trump is loyal to Trump, and to his absurdly swollen ego. Nothing and nobody else.
  • You want tort reform? Try this.

    The nursing home industry and the chamber of commerce finally defeated the trial lawyers in the 2017 legislature. The Republican-dominated body approved a constitutional amendment for voters in 2018 that they'll depict as close to motherhood in goodness.
  • Goodbye, Mr. Trump

    It is hard to escape the feeling that the fortunes of President Trump and the country took a decisive, and for Trump a fatal, turn May 9-10, when the president fired the director of the FBI over its investigation of Russian efforts to swing the presidential election to him and the very next day shared top-secret intelligence with Russian officials in an Oval Office meeting closed except to a Kremlin press aide toting electronic gear to capture the intimate session for Russians but not Americans.
  • Raw feelings in the Arkansas Justice Building over workload, pay

    Strained relations between the Arkansas Supreme Court and the Arkansas Court of Appeals broke into public view this week. I expect more to come.

Latest in Max Brantley

  • You want tort reform? Try this.

    The nursing home industry and the chamber of commerce finally defeated the trial lawyers in the 2017 legislature. The Republican-dominated body approved a constitutional amendment for voters in 2018 that they'll depict as close to motherhood in goodness.
    • May 18, 2017
  • French Hill's photo op

    The U.S. House of Representatives last week passed a health care bill that only the blind, dumb or dishonest could call good for any but the wealthy. For its many flaws, it has been hailed as a ticket to congressional gains for the Democratic Party.
    • May 11, 2017
  • For the kids

    Early voting is underway for the special election May 9 on extension of 12.4 property tax mills dedicated to debt of the Little Rock School District.
    • May 4, 2017
  • More »

Visit Arkansas

New Entrance and North Forest to debut with Chihuly exhibit opening at Crystal Bridges

New Entrance and North Forest to debut with Chihuly exhibit opening at Crystal Bridges

Dual Chihuly exhibit opening also brings culmination of year-plus forest project

Event Calendar

« »

May

S M T W T F S
  1 2 3 4 5 6
7 8 9 10 11 12 13
14 15 16 17 18 19 20
21 22 23 24 25 26 27
28 29 30 31  

Most Recent Comments

  • Re: Trump unfit

    • And Al - of course you will not answer the above - but regarding Trump…

    • on May 22, 2017
  • Re: Trump unfit

    • Nice try, Judy, but Oaf is being more oafish than usual. We had another bolg…

    • on May 22, 2017
  • Re: Trump unfit

    • Mr. F., you sure like being nasty. Any lying. I never disputed the findings of…

    • on May 21, 2017
 

© 2017 Arkansas Times | 201 East Markham, Suite 200, Little Rock, AR 72201
Powered by Foundation