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Hung Jury in Videotaped Police Beating Case

Aired July 29, 2003 - 19:01   ET


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: First a surprising result in the police brutality case in Los Angeles.
A short time ago, the judge declared a hung jury in the case against former Inglewood police officer Jeremy Morse after the panel said it was hopelessly deadlocked.

Now videotape of the incident was, of course, the key piece of evidence against him. The decision in the racially charged case is drawing criticism from some community leaders.

Dan Lothian joins us now, live from Los Angeles with the latest -- Dan.

DAN LOTHIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Anderson, this was a highly anticipated verdict, as you mentioned, and as it was read, about 20, 25 minutes after 2 Pacific time, there were protesters downstairs here in front of the courthouse, heavy security here at the courthouse, helicopters circling above, as the jury finally read the verdict up on the eighth floor of this courthouse.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: On count one I'm going to declare the jury is unable to reach a verdict and further deliberations would not resolve that problem. So I'm declaring a hung jury as to count one.


LOTHIAN: Count one, of course, is Jeremy Morse. He is the Inglewood -- former Inglewood police officer who was seen on that videotape slamming then 16-year-old Donovan Jackson onto the back of the trunk of a squad car.

The other defendant, Bijan Darvish, was charged with filing a false police report, and he was in court today celebrating after he heard his verdict read.


CAMRYN STEWART, DONOVAN JACKSON'S ATTORNEY: On behalf of Donovan Jackson and his family, we would like everyone to know that we are disappointed, of course, in the outcome of the criminal case this afternoon.

We do think that this was a case of excessive force by Jeremy Morse. We do think that this case should definitely be retried. And we will look forward to that on September 29.

We are hopeful that this next time around, that justice will be served. And we in the meantime will proceed vigorously with a civil lawsuit.


LOTHIAN: That is, of course, the attorney for Donovan Jackson, Camryn Stewart.

Now prosecutors did not come out here to speaks to the media, but sent out a spokesperson, who said that it really is too early to decide whether or not they will retry this case. The spokesperson saying that they have to sit down, they have to go over the evidence, see if there is any additional new evidence that can be brought forward before they will decide whether or not to retry this case.

That announcement, as to whether or not they'll do that, will happen on September 22 -- Anderson.

COOPER: And I guess they also have to figure out what exactly went wrong in their case thus far. Dan Lothian, thanks for the update.

Now, the arrest of this young black teenager likely would have gone unnoticed if it had not been for the home video shot by a bystander. The image of 16-year-old Donovan Jackson being slammed repeatedly into a police car while handcuffed, it sent shot waves through the Inglewood community and much of the rest of the country.

The case draws strong comparisons, of course, to the videotaped beating to Rodney King, at least to many people.

Mitchell Crooks now is the man who sparked the entire Inglewood police brutality case. He shot the videotape that was the key evidence against the accused officer. He joins us now from outside the courthouse tonight.

Mitchell, thanks for being with us. Your reaction to the hung jury? Mitchell, what was your reaction to the hung jury?

MITCHELL CROOKS, VIDEOTAPE DONOVAN JACKSON BEATING: I wasn't surprised. I knew from the beginning this they were not going to try to prosecute Jeremy Morse. This stems back to the arrest against me and the way they handled situation. I expected this all along.

COOPER: Why do you say that? They were prosecuting him. You feel they -- their heart really wasn't in it?

CROOKS: They were only doing this to appease the public, to make it seem like, you know, they wanted to prosecute him.

If they wanted to prosecute him they could have called several key witnesses, including myself, which they never contacted me. And you know, the 20 people that were seen on my videotape, the 20 people that Jeremy Morse beat up in the first place before this incident, they didn't call any of these people. They didn't even call Donovan's father to the stand.

COOPER: But they did certainly show the videotape, which is the videotape that you shot. We're looking at it right now. What would you have testified beyond what is in this videotape?

CROOKS: Well, I would have, you know, expressed there was excessive force. That what Jeremy Morse did was illegal and it was out of control. That's -- I mean, they should have had -- I don't care if I only had a little to say. They should have had everybody involved in that situation up there to testify against him.

COOPER: Do you want this case to continue? I mean, do you want them to retry this thing? Do you think they will?

CROOKS: Yes. But I still believe that no jury is going to want, you know, this case. I just don't think that, you know, nobody wants this on, you know, on their shoulders. This is a heavy case.

There's a lot of political ramifications. There's a lot of division between, you know, different parties. I just don't think that anybody really wants to try this case, and I don't think that the prosecution wants that either.

COOPER: All right. Mitchell Crooks, appreciate you joining us tonight. It was your videotape that has been at the center of this all along. Thanks very much for your comments.

Because there are several unusual legal angles to the case, we have with us tonight Lisa Bloom, an anchor for Court TV, and from San Francisco, assistant district attorney Kimberly Guilfoyle Newsom.

Appreciate both of you joining us.

Lisa, let me start off with you. Was this a victory for the defense?

LISA BLOOM, COURT TV: I think it was in the short term but not necessarily in the long-term. Look at the Abner Louima case here in New York. Police Officer Charles Schwartz tried three times and is still in a hung trial. A fourth trial was only averted when he pleaded guilty to perjury charges.

Rodney King, there were two trials, so it really depends on whether there will be a retrial.

COOPER: As Lisa has said, Kimberly, it's tough to prosecute police officers, or former police officers in this case. What do you think went wrong for the prosecution?

KIMBERLY GUILFOYLE NEWSOM, ASSISTANT DISTRICT ATTORNEY, SAN FRANCISCO: Well, I think the D.A.'s office has been sharply criticized from people in the community and even within their own office that, in fact, they did not put their best case forward, that certain witnesses were not called that could have provided valuable insight into what transpired. In addition you have to understand that the prosecution's own expert witness on use of force contradicted some of the prosecution's case, agreeing in part with the defense expert. So I'm not surprised at the results, in fact.

COOPER: But Lisa, jump in here, I don't get what Mitchell Crooks said he should have been called in. But I mean, his videotape was front and center through all this. What -- you know, these witnesses who were there that actually saw it work they really have added anything to the case?

BLOOM: Well, it's a great point. It's very hard to second guess the prosecution as to witnesses called or not called because we don't know what they exactly would have added.

Mitchell Crooks want toed to talk about excessive force. That's expert testimony. He's not a police expert. He would not have been permitted to testify as to that. He could testify as to what he saw. The videotape is probably better evidence as to what he saw.

So ultimately, the testimony may have been duplicative and the judge may not have even allowed it.

COOPER: And Kimberly, I mean, this video was at the heart of the case for both prosecution and defense and both sides really, I mean, took it apart frame by frame and each came up with different explanations.

NEWSOM: One thing specifically that benefited the defense is although it looks like that he was hit very hard on the car, in fact, the individual did not receive any substantial injuries or serious injuries in this case. And that factored very heavily, I think, on behalf of defense in this case and that was something the prosecution needed to overcome, especially filing felony charges in this case.

They really didn't leave the jury much room to go in another direction perhaps with a lower, lesser charge of simple assault.

BLOOM: The other problem was Donovan Jackson himself was not a very good witness. He's a developmentally disabled teenager. He testified before the grand jury that he was unconscious through most of the event, so he simply didn't recall. But at trial he testified differently that, in fact, he was conscious. And that certainly had to hurt the prosecution's case.

COOPER: And the testimony that was not heard, Jeremy Morse, significantly. I mean, I know a lot of defense attorneys don't like to put the defendant on the stand if they don't have to. They didn't have to in this case. Was that a mistake?

BLOOM: Well, I think it was probably the right thing to do, since they got a hung verdict, which for the defense I'm sure they consider a victory. You've got a Fifth Amendment right not to testify. The jury was told they can not have consider that. It may have been the elephant in the corner of the room. But they weren't supposed to think about it. They were thinking about but ultimately, that was his constitutional right.

BLOOM: Kimberly, you were a prosecutor in Los Angeles -- sorry, go ahead.

NEWSOM: I was going to say keep in mind the defense is really reluctant to put a defendant on the stand, especially if they perceive that the case is going their way.

And, in fact, when they were able it successfully cross-examine the prosecution expert, then they knew it was better to keep their client off the stand and let the case fall as it was, which I think was a brilliant move on their part.

COOPER: Kimberly, you were a prosecutor in Los Angeles. Do you think the prosecution, do you think the D.A. is going to retry this case?

NEWSOM: Yes. They've got a couple choices here. They can retry the case or what I think the best move for them is to try to get the defendant to enter into some kind of plea negotiations to a lesser charge. That way they avoid the embarrassment of a second trial that probably will go well.

A case, when you try it for the second time, doesn't get better. And again, you hear the prosecution saying unless other information or evidence comes forward or appears in this case, I think you're going to see the same result and maybe a not guilty in this case.

So it's going to be interesting to see if they proceed on it with a 7-5 split, it's going to be for political reasons.

BLOOM: I was going to say it's a real hung jury in this case, 7- 5. Usually, we see 11-1 or 10-2.

COOPER: Right. It took them four days to come up -- to be a hung jury.

BLOOM: That's right. And they asked questions and heard read back. And I think it's going to depend on community pressure.

The community reaction has been different than what we saw in Rodney King. No violence, no riots. And yet, a lot of anger. Will it be directed politically, non-violently, towards pressuring the local D.A. to re-prosecute? I think it will be.

COOPER: Very briefly. Kimberly, you said you would go for some sort of a negotiated settlement or you think that may be likely. Would that include jail time for Jeremy Morse?

NEWSOM: Likely some kind of jail time and a probationary sentence.

And again, big mistake trying the case in Inglewood. I think that that was not a good decision on the part of the prosecution. It is known as one of the toughest places in L.A. County to get a guilty verdict. BLOOM: I don't think the community would have accepted anything less. Nevertheless, it was an 11 white, one black jury. I don't think the community would have accepted a jury verdict anywhere else.

COOPER: And as we know in the Rodney King days, there had been a change of venue, which a lot of people said played into the results of that case.

Lisa Bloom, appreciate it. And Kimberly, as well, thank you very much. Kimberly Guilfoyle Newsom.


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