A jury of 7 women and 5 men, two of them black, has begun hearing testimony in the retrial of former Little Rock cop Josh Hastings in the slaying of Bobby Moore, 15, as Moore was driving from a west Little Rock parking lot.
The prosecution will argue that Hastings acted recklessly in firing into the car because it was stopping. The defense will argue he had no choice, that the car never slowed as it approached Hastings. His first trial in the case, over a shooting last August, ended in a mistrial with a jury hung 9-3 in favor of conviction.
From David Koon on the early testimony:
After testimony from LR Crime Scene specialist Annette Tracy, who testified about photos taken at the scene — including gruesome color photos of Bobby Moore slumped over the console of the Honda he was driving that night —and evidence collection, much of the morning’s testimony came from 17 year old Keontay Walker, who was in the front seat when Bobby Moore III was shot. As in the first trial, Walker testified that after breaking into cars at Shadow Lakes Apt. Complex, Bobby Moore drove away from the parking lot as a normal speed before seeing the flashlight of Josh Hastings and hearing him shout and ID himself as LRPD and telling them to stop the car.
Walker testified that Moore came to a stop six feet from Hastings. When he saw Hastings pointing his gun, Walker said, he got down under the dash. Walker said Moore was at a stop when the shots were fired, and then he felt the car go into reverse and start going backwards, rolled backwards, hit a curb, then crashed into a parked car. Johnson put up crime scene photos of Bobby Moore’s body, at which point Walker was overcome to the point he couldn’t continue.
On cross-examination, defense lawyer Bill James quickly seemed to rattle Walker, pointing out inconsistencies between his testimony today, his statement to police, and his testimony in the previous Hastings trial. James put up a page from the transcrpt from the previous trial in which Walker testified that the car was in reverse and going backward when the shots were fired. Today, Walker had testified that shots were fired before he felt the car shift into reverse. James then put up Walker’s statement to LRPD in which Walker said the car was going backwards when shots fired.
James then put up a diagram of the crime scene drawn while Walker was speaking to prosecutors, with Hastings represented by a small circle. In the first trial, Walker said he’d added that circle to the diagram. Today, he said he couldn’t recall drawing it.
James finished up by asking Walker if he’d lied to police at the scene outside the gates of the complex that night when they asked if he was involved. Walker said he had. James then asked him if he believed it was okay to lie under certain circumstances. Walker said that he did. Pressed by James, however, he said he couldn’t say ehat those circumstances were.
After the jury left the courtroom for lunch, Judge Wendell Griffen addressed Bill James. With anger in his voice, Judge Griffen said that he had ruled that there were certain topics which he had specifically forbidden from being discussed in front of the jury. He said that in spite of those rulings, James had approached the bench with the jury present and attempted to offer proffer testimony on those matters.
Griffen then found James in contempt, saying he would address it at the end of the trial.
AFTERNOON UPDATE: After lunch, before the jury was brought back in, Bill James rose to renew his motion for Griffen to recuse, saying that the contempt charge levied against him for attempting to proffer testimony provides further evidence of the Judge’s bias against him.
During the ensuing conversation between Griffen and James, the issue at hand became clear: During one of the morning’s breaks, before the jury left the room, Griffen said that James had approached the bench and asked the judge to be allowed to proffer testimony that a gun was found in the Honda that Bobby Moore was driving the night he was shot, and that the Honda was stolen. Proffer testimony is testimony read into the record of a trial out of the presence of the jury to preserve it in the event of an appeal. James later said he had also wanted proffer testimony that the boys had discussed whether to lead the police on a high speed chase, and that marijuana and a pipe was found in the car.
Griffen said that his previous rulings had forbidden discussion of the gun found in the car and the fact that the Honda was stolen in the the presence of the jury, By attempting to speak at the bench about those matters while the jury was still in the room, Griffen told James, James had willfully disregarded those rulings. James eventually asked if the court was suggesting he was speaking loud enough at the bench for the jury to hear, but Griffen said that was not the issue — that the ruling said that those matters were not to be discussed in the presence of the jury.
Griffen said that the contempt charge wasn’t based on bias against James, but on the fact that James had knowingly disregarded the court’s previous order. Griffen told James that he would sanction him at the end of the trial, but added that if James continued his course of action, he might act sooner. “One of the sanctions for disruptive conduct is removal from the courtroom,” Griffen told James, adding that attorneys weren’t immune to that rule.
After the jury was brought back in, testimony continued from Keontay Walker, with John Johnson recrossing. Johnson walked Walker through several instances in Walker’s original statement to police in which Walker said the Honda was already in reverse by the time the shots were fired, with Walker testifying that the events of the night were confusing, and that several things happened at once. Walker also testified that the car in the crude diagram drawn as Walker talked to prosecutors isn’t accurate as to where the car was pointed that night, only as to where Hastings was standing. In the diagram, the car appears to be pointed directly at the spot where Hastings was standing, though Walker said Moore was actually attempting to drive past Hastings on a curved driveway when Hastings fired into the car.
On recross by James, Walker again testified the car was going backward when the shots were fired. It continued for several minutes like that, with John Johnson and James questioning Walker back and forth, trying to pin him down on whether the car was stopped or in reverse when the shots were fired.
After Walker was excused, LRPD Sgt. J.C. White came to the stand, and testified briefly about the night of the shooting.
Up next was Jeremiah Johnson, the teenager who was in the backseat of the Honda the night Bobby Moore was killed. Johnson said Moore was “just cruising” as they left the lot, not going very fast. He said they saw Hastings’ flashlight, then heard him identify himself as a Little Rock Police Officer. Johnson testified that Moore was “coming to a stop” and was looking back over his right shoulder to reverse when Hastings fired into the car. Johnson said that Moore slumped over in the seat and the car started rolling backwards until it hit an awning and a parked Camaro. Once the car had stopped, Johnson said, he ran, hid in nearby woods until dawn, and then walked to a nearby apartment complex and talked a stranger into giving him a ride to his house, where he was later found by police.
Prosecutor John Johnson asked Jeremiah Johnson if his being on juvenile probation had any bearing on what he told police about the incident, and Jeremiah Johnson said it didn’t. Asked if Bobby Moore had tried to run Hastings over that night, Jeremiah Johnson said “no, sir.” The prosecutor asked if the Honda Moore was driving ever drove up on the embankment next to the dumpster that night. Jeremiah said it hadn’t. Hastings told investigators at the time of the shooting that the Honda was going fast enough when he fired that it jumped a curb and traveled up a rock-covered slope after Moore was killed, then rolled back down a slightly angled driveway to collide with the parked Camaro. Investigators testified that they found no evidence the Honda had mounted the slope as Hastings had claimed, and the prosecution’s accident reconstructionist in the first trial also discounted the idea.
On cross examination, Bill James pointed out several instances in Jeremiah Johnson’s statement to police in which he said the car was still travelling forward when the shots were fired. In response, Jeremiah Johnson testified that it was moving forward, but reiterated that the car was “coming to a stop.” On recross by John Johnson, Jeremiah Johnson testified that the car was “barely” moving forward at the time the shots were fired, but went into reverse “immediately” after.