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Jury selection to begin for California deputy in videotaped shooting

Jury selection to begin for California deputy in videotaped shooting

The grainy amateur video seems to show a deputy shooting a U.S. airman three times as he struggles to obey an order to get up from the ground.
But it is what the video does not show that could take center stage at the upcoming trial of former San Bernardino County sheriff's Deputy Ivory J. Webb Jr.
After the shooting, Webb told investigators he thought 21-year-old Elio Carrion was reaching for a weapon _ something that is not clear on the 40-second video clip. Authorities later determined Carrion was unarmed.
Still, experts say the deputy's contention could prevail in the case, based on acquittals in previous high-profile police brutality trials.
Jurors tend to believe accused cops who say they opened fire because they felt threatened, said Eugene O'Donnell, a former prosecutor who is now a professor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York.
Otherwise, their actions would make no sense, he added.
In addition, law enforcement officials are finding that videos seldom capture enough detail to disprove those claims _ at least in the eyes of jurors.
"What we're learning about videos is that they often don't answer all the questions you think they might answer," O'Donnell said. "They raise at least as many questions as they answer _ and that's if they're high quality."
Webb, 46, has pleaded not guilty to felony charges of attempted voluntary manslaughter and assault with a firearm in the Jan. 29, 2006, shooting that was filmed by a bystander and aired by TV stations nationwide.
Jury selection is set to begin Monday. If convicted, Webb could face more than 18 years in prison. Prosecutors declined to comment on details of the case.
However, when the charges were announced last year, San Bernardino County District Attorney Michael Ramos said Webb believed he was "doing what he needed to do. In our legal analysis, that was unreasonable."
Carrion, now 23, was a passenger in a car that crashed during a high-speed pursuit by Webb. The Air Force senior airman testified at a preliminary hearing that he had been drinking at a barbecue to celebrate his return from Iraq.
On the video, he can be heard swearing at Webb before the deputy tells him to "get up! get up!" Carrion was then shot.
Webb's lawyer, Michael Schwartz, could pursue several tactics in defending his client.
Experts said he could emphasize Carrion's drinking and profanity, or question the quality of the dark, grainy videotape, which has confusing audio and gaps in filming.
Schwartz has previously suggested that Webb might actually have shouted "don't get up!" at Carrion.
And during the preliminary hearing, the lawyer played an FBI-enhanced copy of the videotape frame-by-frame to show Carrion's hand going toward his jacket, a movement that becomes almost imperceptible when the footage is seen at real speed.
Mike Rains, an attorney who specializes in defending police, said most officer-involved shootings are prompted by hand movements _ whether the suspect is armed or not.
"The cop starts shooting ... because the cop thinks the movement is to get a gun," he said. "Officers are trained to respond that way."
O'Donnell compared Webb's case to an incident in Inglewood in which a video showed Officer Jeremy Morse punching a handcuffed, 16-year-old suspect and slamming him into a car.
Defense attorney John Barnett argued the video did not show that the teen had grabbed Morse's testicles and refused to let go. A jury deadlocked twice and prosecutors decided not to pursue a third trial.
"You have these people ... demonstrating a lack of compliance," O'Donnell said. "It's going to be hard for the prosecution to say these were people that were completely compliant and observant of the directions given by the officer."
Attorney Harland Braun, who successfully defended one of the Los Angeles police officers accused in the Rodney King case, said he assumed the beating was racially motivated when he first watched that videotape.
But he changed his mind after watching the footage at least 150 times and later persuaded state and federal juries to acquit his client, Ted Briseno.
Braun said officers in that case were so convinced they had handled the situation properly that one thought the tape should be used as a training video.
"We know that Rodney King didn't have a gun on him, but they didn't know that and officers are trained to assume people are armed," Braun said.
"You want to put the jury in the officer's position, not knowing what the future is and trying to operate on the situation created by the suspect," he said.


Updated : 2021-07-31 05:48 GMT+08:00