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Proviso Probe

Monday, January 21, 2008

Black motorist "not guilty" of resisting arrest in Forest Park

On Thursday, January 10, I testified for the defense in the case of the People vs. Clarence Davis. Davis was charged with misdemeanor resisting arrest. See Forest Park Review (Josh Adams).

The FPR article makes a big deal out of the police officer failing to use video camera in his vehicle.

I have a different take on what decided the trial. The defense presented three witnesses who testified that either the police were lying in their account or that the police officer was out-of-control or used disproportionate force (a Taser stun gun) given the provocation.

I was the third defense witness, and the defense attorney was somewhat dejected after my testimony. I was the defense witness who confirmed that the officer had told Davis to put his hands behind his back at some point. The defense attorney assumed that was enough to convict Davis of resisting arrest.

But the ASA (assistant state's attorney), who made it clear he didn't like me, decided he wanted to call a witness to impeach my testimony. When the ASA asked me if Det. Frey questioned me about the incident at the scene I responded that I did not remember Frey questioning me. I do remember Mike Keating speaking to me, but not any other officers.

The ASA called Frey as a witness. Apparently Frey said he questioned me and I said I didn't see anything noteworthy.

By calling Frey, I suspect the ASA shifted attention away from the fact that the officer did tell Davis to put his hands behind his back to a debate over which set of witnesses was lying more. The police officers wrote the incident report to say that Davis defecated voluntarily at the police station while being questioned. Two of the defense witnesses heard Davis blame the arresting officer for making him “shit himself”, a statement I took to be a reference to being shocked with the Taser stun gun.

Applying a little common sense, the defense witnesses' story probably made more sense than the version presented by the police. And if the police were lying in part of their account that raises the question of why were they lying. Was the initial stop bad? Did the police use excessive force? What were they doing wrong that they felt compelled to lie?

And I suspect the jury probably had reservations about how the officer used the Taser stun gun. Given the provocation—Clarence Davis asked to call his boss so he could arrange for the car to be picked-up—it seems likely that the jurors felt uncomfortable endorsing the use of the Taser stun gun. Police aren't authorized to shoot people who disobey orders. And I think most Americans are uncomfortable with the idea that disobeying—or in this case delaying obeying an order—automatically authorizes a cop to use a Taser stun gun.

I have heard second-hand from two sources that the officer who shocked Davis resigned from the Forest Park Police Department within days of the verdict. While it seems likely there will be some cover story, it's hard not to draw the inference that the Davis verdict and the resignation were connected.

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