Bronx District Attorney Robert Johnson is slamming a judge who dropped charges against a police officer in the fatal February 2012 shooting of an unarmed teenager. Meanwhile, the judge blamed the prosecutors for screwing up their grand jury instructions.
“It cannot be said more forcefully that we disagree with the court,” Johnson said in a statement. He added he was weighing whether to bring the case to another grand jury or to appeal the decision to a higher court.
Judge Steven Barrett dismissed manslaughter charges against Police Officer Richard Haste yesterday for killing Ramarley Graham, saying that prosecutors erred in their presentation to the grand jury.
Graham’s mother, Constance Malcolm, screamed, “They killed my child,” as the judge moved toward his ruling from the bench.
After ejecting Malcolm from the courtroom Barrett said, “I regret that there are people who are hurt by this.” He said he was required under the law to dismiss the case, but noted that prosecutors could re-file the case with another grand jury.
In his ruling the judge said that prosecutors goofed when they told the grand jury not to consider evidence that other cops had warned Haste that Graham was armed in the minutes prior to the shooting. “In effect, the grand jury was told communications of other officers were not relevant,” the judge said, according to the New York Post. “With not great pleasure, I’m obliged in this case to dismiss the charges.”
Graham’s family meanwhile was furious at the decision. “If it means going back to the grand jury or if we have to ask the federal court to deal with this case; we are going to keep fighting no matter what,” said Frank Graham, the dead youth’s father. “Where ever it leads us we will go there. We will never stop until justice is served in this case.”
Graham was shot and killed in an encounter with police who had chased him to his apartment, broken down the door, and shot him in his bathroom. Haste claimed that Graham was armed, but no firearms were found at the scene.
Patrick Lynch, the president of the police officers union, backed the judge. “We agree with his decision. No police officer ever wants to draw their weapon and have to make a life-and death-decision in a split second. But in this dangerous profession, as we try to rid neighborhoods of guns, crime, and drugs, sometimes we must. We firmly believe that given the proper instructions in this case, this officer would not have been indicted in the first place.”