Why Cops Weren’t Convicted of Killing NM Homeless Man

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Vice tells the story of how a murder case against Albuquerque, N.M., police officers Keith Sandy and Dominique Perez for the 2014 shooting of a homeless man named James Boyd ended last month in a mistrial after three jurors voted guilty and nine voted not guilty. “Neither side in this case should take any comfort with the verdict,” said Pete Dinelli, who previously oversaw the city’s police department. Thomas Grover, a  former Albuquerque officer and now a lawyer who represents cops, said, “Basically, Lady Justice said something bad happened that day — it was just a mess. To some degree, everybody lost.”

The case was handled by a special prosecutor, but there still were overwhelming odds against winning a conviction, said David Sklansky, a Stanford University law professor.  “It is unusual for there to be a criminal prosecution in these cases, and it’s highly unusual for a private attorney to be brought in to prosecute the case,,” he said. “These are difficult cases to prosecute because they involve tactical and split-second decisions by officers that jurors are very reluctant to second-guess. The critical question in most cases of this kind will be the officer’s state of mind.” Sklansky said the jurors must be convinced of guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, adding, “That’s a high burden to satisfy when you’re dealing with situations that are often chaotic, with defendants with whom the jury may sympathize.”

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