Kin of slain black teen seeking new civil trial

African-Americans kept off prior jury, Daughtry family says

February 09, 2000|By Andrea F. Siegel | Andrea F. Siegel,SUN STAFF

Lawyers for the family of a black teen-ager shot and killed by an Annapolis police officer are seeking a new civil trial in the racially charged case, weeks after a jury cleared the officer and the city.

In court papers, the lawyers charge that the opposing attorneys kept blacks off the jury to get an all-white panel in the fatal shooting of Cochise O. Daughtry in 1996.

Attorneys for the city and officer David Garcia, saying their jury selections were not based on race, call the accusation "offensive."

The shooting of Daughtry triggered charges of racism and polarized Annapolis' black and white communities. Garcia said he thought Daughtry was reaching for a weapon. No weapon was found by police.

In 1997, a grand jury did not indict the officer. An internal police investigation also did not fault Garcia.

Last month, the jury became the third official group to clear Garcia in the shooting. It found that Garcia did nothing wrong and that Daughtry's family should receive nothing in the multimillion-dollar civil lawsuit against the officer and the city.

The lawyers for Daughtry's family also list two other reasons for obtaining a new trial. In their motion, they say jurors should not have been informed about the grand jury results. They also take issue with an instruction that Judge Michael E. Loney gave the jury about circumstances surrounding a police shooting, according to papers filed this week in Anne Arundel County Circuit Court.

Potentially explosive

The most potentially explosive allegation is that the city's lawyers excluded blacks from hearing a case with racial overtones -- though, in the lawsuit, Daughtry's family did not claim that the shooting was racially motivated.

"I think that given the demeanor of Officer Garcia, whites would probably identify with him more than the black community," said Charles G. Byrd Jr., one of two attorneys for Daughtry's family.

Striking potential jurors because of their race is illegal.

Rignal W. Baldwin, one of two attorneys for Garcia and the city, said lawyers looked at factors other than race. He noted that Loney ruled in his favor when the makeup of the jury -- six jurors and two alternates -- was challenged twice.

After the judge excused 18 potential jurors, each side cut five. Lawyers often use such strikes to exclude people who might be sympathetic to the other side.

Lawyers for Daughtry's family removed people who had ties to law enforcement and who, based on their jobs, appeared conservative. Among the defense's strikes were three African-Americans: a maintenance worker, a driver and a mammogram technician.

The defense said that at least two had served as jurors a week earlier in a criminal trial involving a shooting, and one had lost her father in a fatal shooting.

`Normal considerations'

"We looked at occupation and all of the normal considerations," Baldwin said.

Attorneys for the city said they believed that Loney would not change his mind on his rulings.

"All of those issues were argued and briefed during the trial," said Baldwin. "I believe the court made an appropriate decision and had ample time to consider the issues."

The shooting took place in Robinwood, where most of the 150 families are African-American and have low incomes. Pizza delivery companies have refused to go there because of concerns about crime.

According to police reports and trial testimony, Garcia said he saw what appeared to be Daughtry, 18, kicking Carlester Jackson, 40, while Vernon E. Estep Jr., 19, hit Jackson in the head with a bottle. Garcia fired four times. Estep was wounded.

Daughtry was shot in the right hip and in the chest. A medical examiner could not tell which bullet hit first, but Garcia's statements that Daughtry was reaching around to his back led some officers to suspect that Daughtry was grabbing not for a weapon, as Garcia said he thought, but at a wound.

Estep, who admitted to criminal charges in the incident, was not called as a witness. He has maintained that he was trying to get away from Jackson and that Daughtry was not involved.

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