Spoke this morning with a juror in the manslaughter trial of former LRPD officer Josh Hastings. The trial ended in a hung jury and mistrial yesterday after two full days of deliberations
In part, said the juror, the two holdouts favored acquittal because Hastings in the fatal shooting was "preventing future crimes." She said that by the time the jury realized they were hopelessly deadlocked, the ten members who favored conviction were unanimous in their belief he should be convicted of the lesser charge of Negligent Homicide.
The juror asked that we keep her name confidential. Read details from a long conversation with her on the jump...
Also, Josh Hastings himself appears to have some comments on this Facebook page, Justice for Josh. A couple of posts are shown below, the first from late last night, the second from Saturday night.
The juror said that the holdouts in the case were two women, who seemed to be reluctant to consider that Hastings might be guilty. She said that as deliberations wore on, the conversations between the two jurors and those who favored a guilty verdict became increasingly heated. "From what I could tell, and what several others observed," the juror said, "when we tried to get them to explain to us how he was not guilty — how he could have known that firing into that car would result in the death of someone — they kept coming back to: 'Well, the car's coming at him.' We were like: 'That's self defense. You can't use that.' Then it was: 'Well, he's preventing future crimes.' That's scary, to think that they're saying it's okay for a police officer to shoot into a car because they're preventing future crime. Honestly they couldn't get beyond the fact that he's a police officer."
"They were biased," the juror said later. "I really feel like they were, because they couldn't get past the badge." She said she believes that the two jurors based their opinions on something other than the evidence that was prevented in court.
The juror said that while she was convinced that Hastings had acted unreasonably when she got into the jury room, she hadn't made up her mind whether he should be convicted of manslaughter or negligent homicide. She said several jurors were confused by the jury instructions and the law regarding manslaughter and negligent homicide, especially given that one of the jury instructions said that self-defense could not be considered as a defense in the case. Eventually, the juror said, after a very close reading of the law, many of the jurors decide that Hastings' guilt or innocence revolved around what he was thinking at the time he shot. "To me," the juror said, "not guilty would be that he had no idea and no reasonable person would have any clue that shooting into an occupied vehicle would result in serious injury or death of someone. Obviously a police officer or any reasonable person would know that shooting into an occupied vehicle is going to result in serious injury or death of someone. It doesn't matter how far away you are."
When the jury went home from deliberations the first night, the juror said, there were three people who were still voting for a not guilty verdict. The next morning, she said, there were only the two holdouts who eventually hung the jury. "They kept saying — and I'm still frustrated, I still didn't sleep last night — 'He's a police officer. They were suspects.' " the juror said. "But what stuck in our minds was: He lost sight of those suspects. He had no idea if they came on foot or in a car. Yes, he identified three black males in a car, but that could have been three black males going to work in the morning. To me, that was the unjustifiable risk: What if you're wrong?"
The juror said that during deliberations on Saturday, the majority of the jury members who were willing to convict Hastings favored the Manslaughter charge. The juror said that those jurors who favored convicting Hastings on the lesser charge of Negligent Homicide were very firm in their beliefs that he hadn't committed Manslaughter. She said that by the time the jury realized they were hopelessly deadlocked on Sunday afternoon, the ten members who were willing to convict had reached a consensus that Hastings was guilty of Negligent Homicide, based on the agreement that they couldn't be 100 percent sure of Hastings' thought process at the time of the shooting, and the fact that the jurors "knew we had to reach some kind of consensus."
The juror said that while the testimony of engineer and accident reconstructionist John Bentley was credible, she said she believed the testimony of defense reconstructionist and former Arkansas State Trooper Dale Donham "hurt the defense" because his re-enactments with a similar Honda proved that a car couldn't go up the rock slope without damage as Hastings' defense had claimed.
"That car did not go up on that slope," the juror said. "That was another thing: obviously the car was not going at 25 miles an hour, because obviously it would have gone much further up the slope. There would have been evidence of the rocks puncturing the car. It would not have just scratched. It would have punched holes in that airdam." The juror said she believed that it's possible the car "bumped the curb" and then rolled back, depending on how slow it's going, "but to me that also proved to me beyond a reasonable doubt that he had another choice that night: he could have gotten out of the way." When the other jurors told the holdouts that Hastings could have jumped out of the way instead of firing, the juror said the two replied that the dumpster beside the slope blocked Hastings' escape — something the juror Arkansas Times spoke with said wasn't supported by the evidence that was presented.
At one point, the juror said, the ten jurors who were willing to convict became so frustrated that they considered informing the judge that the two holdouts were refusing to follow the law. "But then they came back with: 'The state didn't prove to us beyond a reasonable doubt that he acted unreasonably.' But then, that goes back to self-defense."
The juror said that she believes the testimony of Jeremiah Johnson and Keontay Walker was a mixture of "truth and lies," but said that their testimony, when connected with the forensic evidence including the wound to the left side of Bobby Moore's head, convinced her that Moore was putting the car into reverse when he was shot. She said one of the jurors made the point that "when you're trying to run something over, you're looking straight at it. I feel like he was getting ready to throw it in reverse... Hastings felt that the car was the threat. Bobby felt like Hastings was the threat, and Bobby wanted to get the heck out of there. They didn't want to get caught. I think he was getting ready to throw it in reverse." She said she thought about that when she looked over her shoulder to back out of her parking spot during the trial.
The juror called the deliberations "very, very, very frustrating," but said that the jury should have been able to reach a verdict on the evidence presented. "Nobody wants to convict a police officer," she said. "Nobody wants that. They are there to protect us, but they still have a set of rules. Like [Prosecutor Emily] Abbott said: there's rules of engagement. I feel like he broke the rules of engagement. If you can't use self-defense as a defense, it doesn't matter that you felt that the car was coming toward you."