by David Koon
The jury is out for deliberations in the manslaughter case of former LRPD officer Josh Hastings. The deliberations began about 11 a.m. and no word by 3:30 p.m. Long update on this morning's closing arguments after the jump...
UPDATE: The judge and lawyers have conferred privately about notes from jury, most recently about 4:30 p.m.
UPDATE II: About 6 p.m., after seven hours of deliberation, spectators learned no decision had been reached. Judge Wendell Griffen sent the jury home for the night to resume at 11:30 a.m. Sunday. The jury consists of nine women and three men, all white.
After lengthy jury instructions, the prosecution and defense were allowed to make closing statements. Prosecutor Emily Abbott started her closing by asking the jury "What is reasonable?" She said that Hastings responding to the scene was reasonable, as was his getting into position to make an arrest. Abbott then picked up the Glock pistol Hastings used to kill Bobby Moore and pointed it at a wall. "When he took this gun and pointed it at that car and shot — one! two! three ! — that was not reasonable," Abbott said, later adding that the defense had provided "only excuses" for why Hastings shot when he did. Abbott pointed out that Keontay Walker and Jeremiah Johnson had no time to get their stories straight after the shooting and before being questioned by police, and yet they both never mentioned to police that the car drove up the rock slope as Hastings claimed. Abbott said that defense testing left signs of scrapes and rubber transfer on the rocks, because "that's the only time a car went up on those rocks." Abbott said that the idea that Hastings was able to get off three shots and move out of the way is significant. "What that tells you, ladies and gentlemen, is that all he had to do is move, and we wouldn't be here." In closing, she asked the jury to put aside their emotions about how they feel about police officers, and their emotions about what Bobby Moore and his friends were doing that night and find Hastings guilty of manslaughter.
In the defense closing, attorney Bill James began by saying that there is no way to set aside the emotions of Bobby Moore's family, and that they shouldn't be expected to, no matter what Moore was doing the night he was killed. Echoing many of the statements from his opening, James said that the choice Josh Hastings made that day was to put on the uniform of a police officer, and that in order to save his life, he had to make the choice to kill Bobby Moore. "He had no choice," James said. "He reacted. He was not given a choice."
Several times, James asked the jury whether they believe the prosecution is looking for the truth, or looking for a conviction. "Of the four people involved in this case," James said, "three were breaking the law, and one was doing his job." He said Bobby Moore and his friends were out committing "adult felonies, and adult crimes" and were "mature in their criminality." He dismissed the similarities of Walker and Jeremiah Johnson's statements to police by saying that it doesn't take a college degree to know that you shouldn't say you tried to run over a cop. He said Keontay Walker got down in the floor before the shooting because "he knows this driver is about to run over that police officer," before calling Walker a person who will climb a tree to lie before he would stand on the ground to tell the truth.
James noted that even though the prosecution talked several times about police officers and crime scene "scouring" the rock slope, they didn't put on any officers involved in the search of the slope to testify, providing only photos. He also noted that investigators never took Hastings back to the scene and asked him to point out where the car went up the embankment. In photos, James pointed out bits of leaves and pine straw in the undercarriage of the car driven by Bobby Moore, saying that he can't prove the material came from the slope, "but nobody can say it didn't."
James said Hastings didn't go out there that night to be a "mad dog" or "vigilante." He said that after the shooting, Hastings didn't try to hide or destroy the evidence, and directed other officers toward where to find Walker and Jeremiah Johnson, even though they were witnesses to the shooting.
In closing, James played the audio captured from Hastings' microphone just after the shooting, in which Hastings yelled "Shots fired!" three times while pursuing the suspects fleeing the car. He reminded the jury that prosecutor Johnson asked Hastings on the stand what he'd accomplished by shooting Moore. James said what Hastings accomplished was, "he's alive."
Prosecutor John Johnson then rose for the prosecution rebuttal and the last word. Johnson said that the defense was trying to convince the jury that they should only hear the opinion of "the man with the badge and the gun," while trying to make them believe that whatever a police officer does in the line of duty is okay even if it is against the law. Johnson said the police have been referred to as a "thin, blue line" between law and lawlessness. He said everybody in the courtroom should be glad they're there. But, he said, the defense was trying to convince the jury that line is a "situational line," adding that if police are able to blur the line when they want, "what we're headed for is a police state in which the police get to shoot first and ask questions later."
Johnson said the job of the jury is "to police the police," adding that a not guilty verdict in the case would blur that thin blue line.
Johnson said no witnesses who searched the slope were put on because the accident reconstructionists based their reports on those crime scene reports, and hearing testimony from investigators individually would have been a waste of time. Johnson said the defense is "all about red herrings." He called the report by former Ark. State Trooper and accident reconstructionist Dale Donham "a great big red herring," saying that Donham is "not credible" and has "zero credibility," because he "copied (John) Bentley's work." He said that self defense is not a defense in the case, and neither is the idea that Hastings fired that night because he was scared. Johnson said people are expected to do all sorts of scary jobs, adding that "just because you're not suited to do your job" doesn't mean you can violate the law. "The fact that he was scared is not a defense," Johnson said. "It's an excuse."
What the defense wants the jury to believe, Johnson said, was that Bobby Moore had it coming to him. In closing, Johnson quoted a Bob Dylan song, saying "How many times can a man turn his head and pretend he can't see?"
He asked the jury not to pretend that Bobby Moore's life doesn't matter just because they don't like what he was doing, and return a guilty verdict. The Hastings case, Johnson said, is "one of those cases where you have to look what's right dead in the eye and not flinch."