UPDATE: At 2:30 p.m., parties were gathering in the courtroom for a message from the jury. It was not a verdict, but a request about reviewing evidence, an audio tape of the police call the night of the shooting.
UPDATE II: Jury still deliberating at 5 p.m. It has inquired how long into the night it should go.
UPDATE III: About 5:30 p.k., with no verdict reached, the judge sent the jury home for the night. They’ll resume at 10 a.m. Thursday.
From earlier today:
David Koon reports from the County Courthouse a surprise: defense attorney Bill James rested without putting on any new testimony in the retrial of former Little Rock cop Josh Hastings on a manslaughter charge in the fatal shooting of Bobby Moore III, 15, in August 2012.
The prosecution had rested last night after less than a day of testimony. It had expert witnesses in reserve as rebuttal witnesses to expected defense testimony, but there will be none. James perhaps believes he’s sufficiently shaken the testimony of other witnesses — particularly eyewitnesses, the companions of Moore on car break-ins at an apartment complex the night of the shooting. He perhaps also may believe he has as a hole card — objections he’s raised to Circuit Judge Wendell Griffen’s conduct in the case. He’s said Griffen has a bias against the defense and his improperly limited testimony James wants to offer about the criminal record of Moore and a gun that was found in the car, which turned out to be stolen.
Hastings’ first trial ended in a hung jury favoring prosecution. The prosecution said Hastings was not in danger when he fired into the fleeing car. He contends he was.
In the last trial, the testimony of prosecution’s accident reconstructionist John Bentley, who was called by the defense for this trial, not the prosecution, was devastating. It strongly indicated Hastings was lying when he said the car was coming at him so fast that it jumped the curb and went up the rocky slope. If the car isn’t coming at him that fast, he had options other than using deadly force. Without Bentley’s testimony, all the jury has to go on to decide whether Hastings had no choice but to fire is the testimony of two admitted thieves. Versus a Little Rock cop.
The jury heard closing arguments before receiving instructions on the law and beginning deliberations. The prosecution said Hastings made a bad choice, saying he shot thought the car had not gone past him. Defense attorney James argued that the companions had lied. The state also offered testimony from a medical examiner that the gunshot wounds couldn’t have been caused by the scenario Hastings had described to investigators.
More on the closing arguments from David Koon:
First prosecution closing was by Emily Abbott, who started by telling the jury the case is about choices. It is not, she said, about the choices Bobby Moore and his friends made — information which she told the jury “It’s easy to get distracted by.” She then pointed at Hastings and told the jury it was about “the choices of this man.” Abbott then put up autopsy photos: Moore’s head, with a fatal bullet wound, his body, his finger, blown apart by a bullet.
She said that yesterday’s testimony by LR Crime Scene Specialist Annette Tracy, who said the rocky slope behind Hastings when he fired was apparently undisturbed, proved that the Honda never ran up on the slope. “If the car does not continue forward,” Abbott said, then why did Hastings shoot? Abbott said that everything Hastings did up until the moment he made the decision to fire into the Honda was reasonable. “But when he decided to fire three times into a vehicle that posed him no risk,” Abbott said, “He committed manslaughter.”
Bill James started his closing by reciting the nursery rhyme “Humpty Dumpty” saying that the prosecution’s case — which he went on to call a facade — “fell apart the minute those boys started testifying.”
James said that Hastings was out there that night doing his job. James said that the prosecutor wants the jury to decide the case “not on the facts, but on sympathy for these three young men.” He called into question yesterday’s testimony by Medical examiner Charles Kokes. Before drumming the fact that the boys gave conflicting testimony on whether the car was going forward or backward when the shots were fired, along with testimony on how far the car was from Hastings at the time of the shooting. He said that at only 15 mph, the car would have been moving at 22 feet per second.
James asked the jury to consider what message their verdict will send, including “How do we want people to act at 4 in the morning?” He played the “Shots fired!” Tape of radio traffic from the night of the shooting, then encouraged the jury to weigh the credibility of the witnesses.
“Would you make a life decision based on the testimony of those two young men?” James asked.
After restating that Hastings was “out there doing his job,” James closed by saying “I ask that you end this nightmare for Josh Hastings and find him not guilty.”
After a break, John Johnson made the second prosecution closing. Johnson noted that James had asked the jury to end the nightmare for Josh Hastings, than said “Josh Hastings at least gets to wake up in the morning,” adding that Bobby Moore never will.
Some days, Johnson said, a police uniform can just be “a costume.” He told the jury that not only are officers entrusted with guns, uniforms and badges, they’re entrusted with lives. He said that while the three boys needed to be arrested that night, “They didn’t need killing.”
Recalling Shakespeare, Johnson said the defense was “full of sound and fury, signifying nothing” citing the defense efforts to call into question whether the car was stopped, moving forward or in reverse when shots were fired. Later, Johnson put up a photo of the crashed Honda, saying where it ended up proved the car was stopped or in reverse when Moore was killed. Johnson also said the idea that Hastings only had a split second to react due to the car moving at 22 ft per second was “baloney.”
Johnson said that what the defense hopes is that the jury won’t care about Bobby Moore. “The unspoken defense here is: Let’s just let the police do what they want.” Johnson said that kind of thinking, along with ideas like “Hang them all and let god sort them out” are ideas of the past. “What this defendant is trying to do is drag us back there,” Johnson said,
In closing, Johnson put up two photos on the overhead, projected on a big screen tv over the jury box: one of Josh Hastings in his police uniform, the other of Bobby Moore, dead on a slab. Slowly, he slid the photo of Hastings over the photo of Moore until the dead boy was completely covered.
Referring to the photo of Hastings, Johnson said: “What they’re hoping is that’s all you can see.”