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Archive for Wednesday, July 30, 2003

Hung jury declared in police assault trial

July 30, 2003

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— A judge declared a hung jury Tuesday in the police brutality case against a white former officer who punched and slammed a handcuffed black teen onto a squad car during a videotaped arrest.

The jury deliberated more than three days without reaching a verdict in the case of former Inglewood officer Jeremy Morse, 25, whose violent arrest of Donovan Jackson at a gas station last July raised racial tensions and brought back painful memories of the Rodney King beating.

The jury, which included only one black member, was deadlocked 7-5 in favor of conviction against Morse on a charge of assault under color of authority. His partner, Bijan Darvish, 26, was found innocent of falsifying a police report.

They both could have received up to three years in prison if convicted.

Dist. Atty. Steve Cooley said his office would review the proceedings and decide whether to seek a retrial. Morse's defense lawyer, John Barnett, said the case should be thrown out.

People standing outside the courthouse held signs saying "Peace After the Verdict," hoping to prevent riots like the ones that devastated the city after four white police officers were acquitted of state charges in the videotaped beating of King in 1992. The four days of riots left 55 people dead and more than 2,000 injured.

The Los Angeles Police Department kept officers late on their shifts and increased patrols in the city in case of violence, but authorities reported no violence after the verdict.

Jackson and his father, Coby Chavis, have state and federal civil rights lawsuits pending against the officers, the city and Los Angeles County.

Jackson was not in the courtroom Tuesday. Morse and Darvish left the courtroom without comment.

Morse has been fired from the force in Inglewood, about 10 miles south of downtown Los Angeles.

With the Inglewood, Calif., City Hall in the background, Mitchell
Crooks, at podium in baseball cap, the man who videotaped Inglewood
police officers in their controversial arrest of Donovan Jackson,
talks to those assembled at a peace vigil. A coalition of
religious, political and community leaders had gathered Tuesday to
urge prayer and calm after the verdict in the case of the officer
accused of assault. The case resulted in a hung jury Tuesday.

With the Inglewood, Calif., City Hall in the background, Mitchell Crooks, at podium in baseball cap, the man who videotaped Inglewood police officers in their controversial arrest of Donovan Jackson, talks to those assembled at a peace vigil. A coalition of religious, political and community leaders had gathered Tuesday to urge prayer and calm after the verdict in the case of the officer accused of assault. The case resulted in a hung jury Tuesday.

Race was not mentioned at the trial. In closing arguments, prosecutor Michael Pettersen said Morse was "an angry, out-of-control officer" who administered street justice against Jackson, then 16, because he had struggled with officers.

The incident began when Jackson came out of the convenience store after buying gas and a bag of chips to find Los Angeles County sheriff's deputies questioning his father about expired license plate tags.

Both sides acknowledged that Jackson made suspicious motions when confronted by officers -- he put his hands in his pockets -- and resisted arrest. He flailed with officers who took him to the ground after he got out of a police car.

The videotape, filmed by a bystander, began after that point. It showed Morse lifting an apparently limp Jackson by his collar and belt and slamming his head down on the trunk of a police car. Morse then punched the teen in the head after Jackson allegedly grabbed Morse's testicles.

Jackson's parents said he has a learning disability and has difficulty understanding and following instructions. Prosecutors suggested that may have been why he failed to follow police orders.

Morse and Darvish also have a lawsuit pending against the city of Inglewood. The suit claims they are victims of racial discrimination and were treated more harshly than a black officer at the scene who was suspended for four days.

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