Sometimes, there's just no easy answer to a question of someone's guilt or innocence -- which is the message that two different juries sent in the case of a white police officer charged with murder and involuntary manslaughter in the shooting death of a black motorist.
The event that led to the trial happened in 2015. A routine traffic stop for a missing front license plate turned bad.
The victim, who was not armed with a weapon but had a lengthy history with the law, started his car up. The panicked officer shot and killed him to prevent him from driving off. The officer claimed that his arm was caught in the car and he feared being dragged to death or run over. The officer's bodycam, however, showed that he wasn't caught on the car after all.
After the jury in the first trial deadlocked, unable to reach a verdict on either charge, a second trial was convened this June. However, the second jury seemed to have as much difficulty as the first reaching any sort of agreement. Despite going back to deliberations several times, the jury still remained unable to reach a verdict.
Cases like this illustrate the often complex proceedings surrounding a major trial. Prosecutors often bring dual charges -- in this case, both murder and involuntary manslaughter -- in the hopes that if the jury doesn't think the evidence fits the criteria for the more severe charge that they'll be willing to convict on the lesser charge as a sort of compromise. That avoids the "all or nothing" approach that could lead to an outright acquittal.
Sometimes, even a choice of verdicts isn't enough, and a mistrial still happens. Mistrials are not always an end to the defendant's woes because the prosecution is usually able to recharge the defendant and bring the case in front of a new jury -- which is what happened in this case.
The judge in the second trial, however, has dismissed the charges against the defendant with prejudice, permanently barring the prosecution from bringing the same charges again -- bringing closure to a case that was keeping racial tensions in the area high. Had she not, the defendant would have had to live with the specter of another trial looming over his head indefinitely.
If you've been charged with a serious crime, the help of an attorney is very important to your future.
Source: www.policeone.com, "Judge in Ohio officer's second mistrial: 'Justice was done'," July 31, 2017