Another Video, Another Acquittal, Another Cop

New York City juries may be the place of intellectuals, sophisticates and metrosexuals, but that doesn’t mean they don’t like their cops.  Or at least, accept the premise that working the thin blue line is simply too hard and challenging to expect much by way of discretion and restraint.

Walter Harvin was an Iraqi war vet on his way to see his mother in the Hostas Houses on West 93rd Street when Police Officer David London decided to play doorman.  It’s nothing unusual for a person who seeks entry into a project without a key to be questioned by police as to his business. and required to show identification.  Harvin doesn’t appear to be the most cooperative person.  From there, things got ugly.  Via David Feige at Indefensible :

Naturally, Officer London wrote it up as him defending himself from Harvin:

The confrontation started, Officer London testified, when he was closing the front door to the housing project as Mr. Harvin tried to squeeze in. Officer London said he asked Mr. Harvin for identification or proof that he lived in the building, and Mr. Harvin immediately became irate, swearing at him and refusing to stop.

Officer London said he struck the first blow after Mr. Harvin lunged toward him. Officer London said he thought Mr. Harvin was about to punch him, and he continued to strike Mr. Harvin while he was on the ground because he continued to thrash around and yell threats.

Long story short, the charges against Harvin were dropped after the video appeared and Officer London was prosecuted.  This video was played for the jury.

Officer London, who has been on desk duty since the episode in July 2008, showed no emotion as the forewoman read the words “not guilty” on each of the counts against him: second-degree assault, filing false records, falsifying business records and making a false written statement.

But moments later, Officer London — flanked by his lawyers, Stephen C. Worth and Cary London, who is not related to the officer — bowed in his seat and sobbed, clutching crumpled tissue and a small red Bible in his fist.

“I’d like to thank God and my family,” Officer London said in a soft voice outside the courtroom after exchanging tearful embraces with his supporters.

The bible was a nice touch, no?  Not guilty on all counts, including the false allegations used to initiate the prosecution against Harvin, alleging that London was attacked. 

And note the success of police union lawyer Steve Worth.  While his co-counsel, Cary London, isn’t related to the defendant, the 2010 admission is related to Stuart London, who was busy at the time defending Patrick Pogan from the Big Shove.  Defending cops on behalf of the Union is a great family business, even if daddy Stuart wasn’t as successful in getting Pogan off for the false allegations against his victim, Christopher Long.  Still, given the sentence of conditional discharge, it’s not like New Yorkers don’t appreciate their cops.

And what’s the lesson here?  From the mouth of Steve Worth:

Mr. Worth said, “We’re happy people are realizing police work doesn’t always look pretty, but that is the nature of the job.”

It’s just the nature of the beast.  Freedom isn’t free, you know.

H/T Lee Stonum

7 comments on “Another Video, Another Acquittal, Another Cop

  1. Peter Ramins

    I wonder how many of these verdicts are partially the result of the subtle psychological effect of being ‘in the belly of the beast’.

    I mean, you show up to the courthouse and all you see are police officers, guards, and many inanimate reminders of the power and glory of the state. You’re invited into the center of the stronghold to pass judgement on of the state’s actors.

    I know it’s kind of silly, but I really wonder how many verdicts would be different if trials like this were held in, say, a gymnasium somewhere, or even a random juror’s home.

  2. SHG

    A very interesting point.  Wherever you look in a courthouse, there’s an officer with gun being treated like royalty and citizens in shackles, clearly a threat.

  3. Stephen

    There’s also a lot of research that suggests if you want a witness to accurately remember what they saw just about the last place you should ask them questions is in a courtroom. People just don’t work well under pressure, on unfamiliar territory and set on a podium like that. It can’t be easy being a juror either.

    I really want there to be some reason that people make decisions like this even with a video right there, I can’t see how it can’t be false statements and I pretty much just don’t want to believe that the jurors flat out ignored that.

  4. Dave W

    I accidentally posted the following link on another thd. Meant to post it here:

    [Ed. Note: Link deleted.  Links are not permitted in comments.]

  5. Ernie Menard

    Well, London was attacked. I played this video slowly, playing and pausing again and again. At the entry door Officer London appears to place his hand on or about the forearm of Harvin and Harvin responds with a shove. Officer London displays extreme restraint.

    Thereafter, it seems to me that during the slow motion foot pursuit in the hallway Officer London and the other LEO are using words to convince Harvin to comply.

    Finally, the elevator. I see Officer London as behaving appropriately for the circumstances up until the moment he raises his baton for the third time.

    As far as I can tell from this video, Officer London was attacked so any official statement he made to that effect concerning what caused the intial use of force would not be incorrect.

    Unfortunately, Officer London lost control of his temper and should have been convicted of a battery with an instrumentality.

    Just my fly larvae two cents. :)

  6. Lee

    I can only speak to the 2 counties in California where I’ve practiced, but the way the courtroom deputies treat accused LE is so incredibly different than the way they treat every other defendant (including well-to-do defendants, who quickly find out they are not special) that I would imagine it has to have some psychological impact on the jurors.

    Here, to have acquitted him even of the false report, the jurors simply decided to nullify, which is a power I really support so I guess I can’t cry too loudly when it used in a context I wish it hadn’t been. Ultimately, the jury is there to help decide the kind of society they want to live in. Apparently, these jurors want to live in one where police officers can beat the powerless among us with great ferocity for anything less than complete and utter subservience.

    Here’s a question for Scott or other NY practitioners, are the prosecutors in the bag a little bit on these cases?

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