North Carolina grand jury indicts officer for voluntary manslaughter for killing schizophrenic teen

February 4, 2015

Good news from North Carolina: A grand jury has indicted Officer Bryon Vassey for voluntary manslaughter. He is the officer who allegedly said, “We don’t have time for this,” before shooting and killing a schizophrenic teenager who had been subdued by two officers.

Think Progress has the story,

Officer Bryon Vassey was one of three officers from different North Carolina precincts to respond to a call by the family of 18-year-old Keith Vidal last month. The teen, who suffered from schizophrenia and weighed just 90 pounds, had apparently picked up a small screwdriver and wasn’t putting it down. But his parents say the two other officers already had the scene under control when Vassey walked in. They say the third officer simply tased Vidal, then took out a firearm and shot him dead, saying “we don’t have time for this.”

Records show Vassey was at the Vidal residence for just 70 seconds before calling in that shots had been fired, reports the North Carolina Star News.

The two officers who had subdued Vidal before Vasey arrived were cleared of wrongdoing by the North Carolina Bureau of Investigation.

I wrote about the incident here.

In the Boiling Spring Lakes case, there were three different officers at the scene. The first two didn’t open fire, but Vassey did. His lawyer, W. James Payne told CNN that Keith Vidal attempted to stab one of the officers multiple times with a screwdriver, but the officer was wearing a bulletproof vest, did not request assistance and was not injured.

Vidal’s stepfather, Mark Wilsey, who witnessed the shooting with Vidal’s mother, told CNN that the detective disrupted the situation,

“(He) walks in the room, walks around the corner, (and) says, ‘We don’t have time for this. Tase that kid now. Let’s get him out of here.'”

At a protest following the shooting, Keith’s mother warned,

“My word that I want to get out to every family who has a mentally ill patient: Do not call the police department for help,” Vidal’s mother told reporters. “Because your son will probably get shot and killed, just like mine did. Think twice about who you call for help.

Vassey has to post a $50,000 bond by today or surrender himself at the county jail.

I was really beginning to wonder if a grand jury would ever indict a cop. This indictment gives me some hope.

In other good news, a week before Christmas a jury in Missoula, MT rejected Markus Kaarma’s claim of self-defense, based on Montana’s stand-your-ground statute, and convicted him of deliberate homicide for the shotgun killing of a 17-year-old German foreign exchange student named Diren Dede. After an unsolved burglary, Kaarma installed some motion sensors in his garage and set a trap by leaving the door open with his wife’s purse in plain view. When Dede set off the sensor, Karma entered the garage and fired his pump shotgun four times, killing Dede.

Kaarma, whose case is similar to the Byron David Smith case in Minnesota (he also was convicted), will be sentenced on February 11th.

These three cases provide a basis for guarded optimism. I use the word ‘guarded’ because the victims in the three cases were white and I am not convinced the results would have been the same, if they had been black.


Grand Jury should indict Darren Wilson because his claim of self-defense is contradicted by autopsy results and all eyewitnesses

August 22, 2014

Friday, August 22, 2014

Good afternoon:

The St. Louis County grand jury should indict Darren Wilson because the results of the independent autopsy and all of the eyewitnesses contradict his reported claim of self-defense and he has asserted his fifth amendment right to remain silent by refusing to fill out an incident report regarding the shooting.

Game within the Game

Darren Wilson has obviously been discussing his legal predicament with an attorney. As a result of that discussion, he decided not to fill out an incident report on the ground that his statement might tend to incriminate him.

That was a smart but risky move.

Smart because he has a fifth amendment right to remain silent and the members of the grand jury cannot assume that his silence is an admission of guilt.

Risky because he is the only witness who would testify that he shot Mike Brown in self-defense. All of the eyewitnesses have described a murder, not a justifiable homicide in self-defense. Therefore, if he does not testify, the grand jury will have little choice except to indict him for murder.

He could go for the brass ring by agreeing to testify before the grand jury, but he would lock himself into a story by doing so and could still be indicted for murder because his story is contradicted by all of the eyewitnesses.

Recall that the grand jury need only find that there is probable cause to believe that he was not in imminent danger of death or serious injury when he shot an unarmed Mike Brown multiple times, including twice in the head, killing him.

Yee olde bum-rush defense ain’t got no legs since none of the eyewitnesses saw Mike Brown rush the officer and his body was found right where he stopped and turned around to face the officer, 35 feet from the police vehicle.

Looks like he has decided to forgo testifying before the grand jury, in essence conceding that he will be indicted.

He’s in a very difficult situation, but I think he made the right choice.

Don’t forget that his lawyer could not be present, if he testified before the grand jury. There’s danger in them thar hills.

Meanwhile, he can derive comfort from the news today that people have contributed more than $225,000 for his defense at his beg-site.

Meanwhile, the racist right-wing-hate-machine marches on engaging in non-stop victim character assassination by lie and constant media repetition of the racist yee olde bum-rush defense in the court of public opinion until everybody forgets that Mike Brown was executed for jaywalking.

Welcome to Zimmerman II.


Should Pistorius’s self-defense claim be judged by the reasonable person or a reasonable disabled-person standard

July 14, 2014

Monday, July 14, 2014

Good afternoon:

Should Oscar Pistorius’s self-defense claim be judged according to the reasonable-person standard or a reasonable disabled-person standard?

Depending on the jurisdiction, the self-defense test can be objective or both objective and subjective.

Objective test: Whether a reasonable person in the same situation (i.e., the external reality) would have perceived himself to be in imminent danger of death or serious bodily injury?

Objective and Subjective Test: Whether a reasonable person, standing in the same shoes (i.e., knowing and perceiving what the defendant knew and perceived in that situation) would have perceived himself to be in imminent danger of death or serious bodily injury?

Consider, for example, a battered wife who kills her battering husband while he is asleep fearing that he will kill or seriously injure her when he wakes up. A reasonable person probably would not have believed herself to be in imminent danger, whereas a battered wife might reasonably have believed she was in imminent danger.

Keep in mind that imminent danger does not require proof that the danger be immediate. Therefore, a battered wife’s belief that she was in imminent danger of death or serious bodily injury when her husband awakens probably would be reasonable, if he had seriously injured her in the past after he woke up.

Therefore, prior history between the shooter and the victim or the shooter’s belief about the victim’s intent based on knowledge of the victim’s reputation for committing acts of violence can be relevant to a shooter’s claim of self-defense.

Even when the test is both objective and subjective, the finder of fact (be it judge or jury) does not have to believe the defendant.

Three possible results exist in the Pistorius case:

(1) Guilty of murder;
(2) Guilty of manslaughter; or
(3) Not Guilty.

I think Pistorius wins or loses on the murder charge depending on whether Judge Masipa believes his claim that he thought he was shooting at an intruder.

She will convict him of murder, if she does not believe him. In other words, she will convict him, if she believes he knew Reeva Steenkamp was behind the door. The defense of self-defense does not apply in that situation.

If she believes his claim that he thought an intruder was in the toilet stall, then she has to decide whether he reasonably believed that he was in imminent danger of death or serious bodily injury when he fired four shots through the closed door. Her decision possibly could be affected by whether the law requires her to apply an objective test or an objective and subjective test.

For the following reasons, regardless of the test she applies, I believe she will decide that he was not in imminent danger of death or serious bodily harm when he fired the gun.

He was an experienced and accurate shooter with the element of surprise on his side with his gun in hand, loaded with the most disabling ammunition available, aiming at the door with arm extended while standing far enough away from it to shoot and kill or disable the intruder, if the intruder opened the door.

By merely squeezing the trigger where he was standing, he could have killed or disabled the intruder before the intruder realized he was there.

He also had a cell phone with which to hold the intruder at bay in the stall behind the closed door while he summoned security guards and the police.

This situation does not change, regardless of his disability.

Nevertheless, I would find him guilty of manslaughter, rather than murder, because his decision to shoot prematurely through the door was a reckless or grossly negligent act.

This is our 1137th post.

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Thanks,

Fred


Retired police captain released on bond in theater-shooting case

July 12, 2014

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Good morning:

To get you up and outta the door, here’s a vid by Widespread Panic covering Fire on the Mountain, a tune by the Grateful Dead:

Remember Curtis Reeves, 71, the former captain in the Tampa Police Department who shot and killed Chad Oulson, 43, in a movie theater during an argument that Reeves started while the previews were showing? Reeves objected to Oulson texting a message. Unpleasantries were exchanged. One thing led to another until Reeves ended the disagreement by shooting Oulson in the chest.

Oulson was unarmed.

Reeves obviously was armed and he is charged with second-degree murder and aggravated battery. If convicted, he will be subject to a mandatory 25-year-minimum sentence.

He claims he fired in self-defense, even though he started the argument and was the aggressor. The entire confrontation was recorded on video.

Ironically, Reeves had just texted his son to inform him that he was at the theater before he confronted Oulson, who was texting his own daughter to communicate the same message to her when Reeves confronted him.

At his preliminary hearing, his attorneys unsuccessfully argued that Reeves believed his life was in imminent danger when Oulson threw popcorn in his face and threw his cell phone at him striking him in the face.

Oulson’s wife, who sustained a gunshot wound to her finger when she attempted to protect him from Reeves, denied that Oulson assaulted him.

Yes, this is another one of those cases where the victim would be alive today if Reeves had not been armed with a gun.

Oulson is survived by his wife and their young daughter.

Reeves was released yesterday on $150,000 bond after the Court of Appeal ordered the trial court to release him on bond or state a legally valid reason to deny him bond.

He has to surrender all of his firearms and must remain at home, unless he goes to church, the doctor’s office or the grocery store.

I believe the decision to release him on bond was appropriate and necessary under Florida law.

For more information, go here.

To ease the pain, here is Lisa Fischer.

This is our 1131st post. If you appreciate what we do, please toss some money into the hat. We need it to keep the lights on.

Thank you,

Fred


Game within the Game: Despite strong case prosecutor may lose Wafer trial in jury selection

June 20, 2014

Friday, June 20, 2014

Good evening:

Judge Dana Hathaway granted a prosecution motion today in the Theodore Wafer murder case that will permit them to provide the jury with transcripts of statements he made during his 911 call and subsequent interrogation by police regarding shooting and killing 19-year-old Renisha McBride.

Armed with a 12 gauge shotgun, he unlocked, opened his front door, and shot her in the face through the locked screen door in response to her knocking on his door early one morning before sunrise. She was unarmed.

He was charged with second degree murder and is claiming self-defense, even though he initially said he fired the gun accidentally.

Game within the Game:

Wafer has a classic were-you-lying-then-or-are-you-lying-now predicament to credibly explain why he said accident when he meant to say self-defense. Since the prosecutor wants transcripts of what he said, there must be other inconsistencies and contradictions that the prosecutor wants to use to skewer him.

People are better at remembering what they read compared to what they see or hear and their recall improves substantially beyond that, if they simultaneously read what they see and hear.

In other words, ain’t nothing in those statements that will help Mr. Wafer.

The Detroit Free Press reported this afternoon that Judge Hathaway continued the hearing to next Thursday (6/26) regarding the defense motion to introduce bad character evidence about Renisha McBride.

The defense is claiming that her social media, including photos on her cell phone, and school records are admissible to show that she had an aggressive and violent disposition.

She will also take up the defense motion to introduce evidence that the character of the neighborhood was changing and McBride may have been knocking on his door by mistake thinking a marijuana dealer lived there.

I do not believe that any of that evidence is admissible.

I am concerned about one thing the prosecutor said today.

The prosecution asked for a jury pool of 200 people today, saying it only plans to ask prospective jurors a few questions: Do you know about this case? What do you know about it? And can you be fair?

Game within the Game:

Colossal mistake equivalent to going to bed at night leaving your back door wide open with an engraved invitation to burglars to come in and steal everything while you sleep.

The problem of jury nullification by racially prejudiced stealth jurors determined to acquit white defendants who murder unarmed black victims, regardless of the evidence, is painfully real. The answers to those three questions will not help the prosecutor determine whether any potential juror is a stealth juror.

The prosecutor who said that is inviting disaster.

Trial is scheduled to start July 21st.

A few words about me: I rely on my 30-year experience as a felony criminal defense attorney and my three years experience as a law professor to analyze the game within the game explaining the applicable rules of law and procedure and the reasons why the lawyers and judges do what they do.

My goal is to assist readers to see through to the heart of a case despite the confusing turmoil of words and phrases that often conceal it.

To educate is to liberate.

If you enjoy and appreciate what I do, please make a donation.

Thank you,

Fred


Defense seeks permission to slime dead victim in Theodore Wafer case

June 20, 2014

Friday, June 20, 2014

Good morning:

The defense is asking the court for permission to slime homicide victim, Renisha McBride, 19, in Theodore Wafer case. Armed with a 12 gauge shotgun, he unlocked, opened his front door, and shot her in the face through the locked screen door in response to her knocking on his door early one morning before sunrise. She was unarmed.

He was charged with murder and is claiming self-defense.

Trial is scheduled to start July 21st.

Wafer is scheduled to be in court this morning for a hearing on his motion to introduce bad character evidence about Renisha McBride.

The defense is claiming that her social media, including photos on her cell phone, and school records are admissible to show that she had an aggressive and violent disposition.

They also want to introduce evidence that the character of the neighborhood was changing and McBride may have been knocking on his door by mistake thinking a marijuana dealer lived there.

I wrote about the issues that will be addressed at the hearing: <a href="Theodore Wafer has an important pretrial hearing today“>Theodore Wafer has an important pretrial hearing today

Apparently there will not be any television or live stream coverage.

Am not seeing any tweets either at #TheodoreWafer so apparently no reporters are covering it.

Here’s an article in the Detroit News about the hearing this morning.

This is our 1095th post. If you like what we do, please make a donation.

Thanks,

Fred


Racists should be banned from jury service

June 13, 2014

Friday, June 13, 2014

Good afternoon:

Xena posted a comment to my post about Theodore Wafer advising that his hearing has been continued to next Friday, June 20th.

She also said,

Did you read the part where the defense wants to argue that Renisha mistook Wafer’s house for a drug dealer’s house? The defense’s argument is that someone who lived close to Renisha was arrested for marijuana after Renisha was killed.

This presents an interesting new wrinkle to putting a victim on trial for a homicide, so let’s break it down, take a look and estimate the probability that it will be successful.

Let’s begin by assuming for the sake of argument that,

(1) someone who lived near Wafer’s house sold marijuana,

(2) McBride had previously purchased marijuana from that person at that address, and

(3) she mistakenly believed she was knocking on that person’s front door when she knocked on Wafer’s front door.

I don’t believe that set of assumed facts, which Wafer did not know at the time of the shooting, helps his claim of self-defense because, regardless of her intent, he had to be in fear of suffering imminent death or grievous bodily harm and his belief had to be reasonable. That is, a reasonable person in the same situation also would have believed that he was in imminent danger of suffering death or grievous bodily injury.

The racist right wing hate machine skips over the word reasonable because its members devoutly believe that their opinions are reasonable.

They fail to understand that the word reasonable in a legal context means evidence-based, as opposed to opinion-based. Racial prejudice is by definition opinion-based, rather than evidence-based. Therefore, it is unreasonable and no verdict should ever be based on it.

Prospective jurors who are unaware of their racial prejudice, or who deny being prejudiced when they know damn well they are prejudiced, should never sit on a jury when a person of color is the defendant or a victim allegedly injured or killed by a white defendant.

Even if McBride had a gun and intended to kill Wafer, and there is no evidence that she did, nothing about the situation he was in would likely have caused a reasonable person to believe he was in imminent danger behind the two locked doors. Seems to me that opening the door demonstrates unequivocally that he did not fear death or grievous bodily injury.

That act is an evidence-based expression of his state of mind when he opened the door and it defeats his claim of self-defense.

The castle doctrine does not help Wafer because she did not attempt to break in or enter his house. She was unarmed and outside his house knocking on the door. He was inside his house in a safe location on the other side of two locked doors while armed with a loaded shotgun and he had a cell phone with which to call 911.

He cannot create a necessity to act in self-defense by opening the door.

We might have a different situation if he were living next to a drug house with all sorts of people coming and going at all hours of the day and night occasionally mistaking his house for the drug house, but even then he would have to have an objectively reasonable basis to believe his life was in danger, as opposed to being pissed off that someone was knocking on his door disturbing his sleep in the middle of the night.

As a matter of law, therefore, I believe the answer is easy. The evidence that the defense seeks to introduce is irrelevant and inadmissible.

Just as O’Mara and West did in the Zimmerman trial, the defense is attacking the victim’s character in an effort to say she deserved to die.

However, as much as right-wing racists want to believe that they have a right to kill any person who is young, black, drunk and/or stoned (e.g., George Zimmerman), especially if that person is listening to loud music and is disrespectful (e.g., Michael Dunn), the law recognizes no such right or privilege.

Finally, do not forget that Wafer did not initially claim self-defense. He told the police that his gun went off by accident.

Look for the defense to do everything it can to keep him off the stand at trial, so he does not have to explain to the jury which story was a lie and why he lied instead of telling the truth.

Trial lawyers love it when they get to ask, “Were you lying then or are you lying now?”

For all of these reasons, I believe the evidence the defense wants to introduce is irrelevant and inadmissible. I also believe a jury will convict him of murder, provided the prosecution identifies and eliminates all potential stealth jurors who would willingly substitute their racially prejudiced opinions about black teenagers for actual evidence.

We have seen jurors do that in two Florida trials.

The question is whether the prosecution will permit that to happen in Detroit.

Wafer’s trial is scheduled to start in five weeks, probably not long after Judge Thokozile announces her decision in the Oscar Pistorius case.

This is our 1082nd post. If you appreciate this analysis and our continuing effort to explain what is happening between the lines in our failing criminal justice system, please make a donation.

Thank you,

Fred


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