Monday, March 5, 2018

Grand jury in Troy, AL, lets cops off the hook in KeAndre Wilkerson beating, but a federal investigation still could heap severe punishment on officers


KeAndre Wilkerson


If you live in or near Alabama, that foul smell you are noticing likely comes from Troy, a town of about 20,000 in the southeast corner of the state. That's where a Pike County grand jury last week refused to indict four officers from the Troy Police Department in the brutal arrest of a local teen last December. The grand jury essentially found the officers acted within the law, and used reasonable force, in the arrest of 17-year-old KeAndre Wilkerson. We invite you to examine the above picture of Wilkerson, taken after his encounter with Troy cops, and ask yourself: "Did it really take four heavily armed cops to use that much force to subdue a juvenile?"

It's hard to see how a sentient being could answer yes to that question. But a Pike County grand jury, which reportedly took up the case last Wednesday and reached a decision early enough on Thursday for the outcome to make that day's news, found it's fine for cops to leave a suspect with a face swollen, bloody, and re-arranged to what appears to be Mike Tyson's specifications. The photo above suggests someone punched or kicked Wilkerson in the face -- probably more than once -- and it was enough to leave his left eye swollen shut.

Are we to believe it's actually fine for cops to inflict this kind of savagery on anyone while trying to make an arrest -- while they have a four-to-one advantage in numbers? We can hope the turnips on the Pike County grand jury will not have the final say in the matter. For one, a civil complaint -- led by Florida-based civil-rights lawyer Ben Crump and Dothan attorneys Dustin Fowler and Stephen Etheredge -- is in the works. Also, the officers might not be out of the woods criminally.

The U.S. Department of Justice is a wreck right now, under the "leadership" of Donald Trump and Jeff Sessions, but there remains the possibility of an federal civil-rights investigation. Federal charges could come under 18 U.S.C. 242 (deprivation of rights under color of law), and that statute can pack a wallop. From our post of 12/27/17:

As for federal charges, those would come under 18 U.S.C. 242 (deprivation of rights under color of law), and that could spell big trouble for the cops who beat Wilkerson. They could face up to 10 years in federal prison, and depending on the circumstances, punishment might become even more severe than that. The statute reads in part:

Whoever, under color of any law, statute, ordinance, regulation, or custom, willfully subjects any person in any State, Territory, Commonwealth, Possession, or District to the deprivation of any rights, privileges, or immunities secured or protected by the Constitution or laws of the United States, or to different punishments, pains, or penalties, on account of such person being an alien, or by reason of his color, or race, than are prescribed for the punishment of citizens, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than one year, or both; and if bodily injury results from the acts committed in violation of this section or if such acts include the use, attempted use, or threatened use of a dangerous weapon, explosives, or fire, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than ten years, or both . . .

Bodily injury obviously occurred in the Wilkerson case, but the possible punishment can go well beyond 10 years:

If a court finds the cops tried to kill Wilkerson -- and the photo above suggests that might have been the case -- the cops' problems grow exponentially. From the statute:

. . . and if death results from the acts committed in violation of this section or if such acts include kidnapping or an attempt to kidnap, aggravated sexual abuse, or an attempt to commit aggravated sexual abuse, or an attempt to kill, shall be fined under this title, or imprisoned for any term of years or for life, or both, or may be sentenced to death.

The Wilkerson case is difficult to analyze because the public knows so little about what happened. A report last week from wsfa.com provides insights:

According to police, officers saw Wilkerson walk from behind a closed downtown business just before midnight on Dec. 23. He then allegedly fled on foot as the officers got out of their vehicle to investigate. While being apprehended, police say Wilkerson refused to put his hands behind his back and reached for his waistband, as if reaching for a weapon. That prompted officers to use physical force to restrain him.

Question: Did Wilkerson actually have a gun? If so, why didn't officers shoot him, or take cover?

Here is more about what apparently caused the confrontation to become physical -- and brutal:

[DA Michael] Jackson said the video showed the officer trying to get the second handcuff on Wilkerson and when he refused to comply, the officer struck him several times. [Supernumerary DA Tommy] Smith said a number of witnesses addressed the jury, including some who saw the incident. Smith said based on all the evidence, witness interviews, and analysis, he is "satisfied" with the decision that was reached. 

Question: If an officer has trouble applying a second handcuff, that gives him and his colleagues the right to pound the suspect's face into mush? With a four-to-one advantage in numbers, they can't figure out a way to subdue the suspect without turning his face into hamburger?

The Troy Messenger adds to the confusion with this, which includes a statement from Troy Mayor Jason Reeves:

Reeves released a statement Thursday stating that a gag order has been made that prevents him from commenting further.

“Today it was announced that a Pike County grand jury determined that probable cause did not exist to charge Troy police officers with any offense related to the well-publicized arrest of a juvenile in December of 2017,” Reeves said. “The matter was independently investigated by the Alabama (State) Bureau of investigation and an outside, independent prosecutor appointed by the Attorney General, who presented the matter to the grand jury which heard the facts and reviewed the evidence and came to a decision.

“Because of a judicial order in the pending criminal case against the juvenile I can make no further statement or release any further information at this time. I appreciate the public’s patience as we continue through the judicial process.”

Question: So, there is a pending criminal case against Wilkerson? Was that why cops approached him? Is that why he ran?

Even if the answer to all of those questions is "yes," does that give cops the lawful right to inflict so much damage on Wilkerson that he winds up in a hospital?

16 comments:

Anonymous said...

That face in the photo sort of screams out, "Police Brutality"!

Anonymous said...

This should have been an easy case to decide -- in favor of indictments.

Anonymous said...

Grand jury got the case last Wednesday, and had a decision in time to make the press on Thursday. Hard to know exactly how long they deliberated, but it might have been no more than four hours.

Anonymous said...

Cops don't seem to get this, but when they arrest someone, that person is presumed innocent. By law, they are not guilty of anything, so it behooves officers not to beat up someone while arresting them. They might be 100 percent innocent, and they are innocent under the law.

Anonymous said...

Doesn't sound like the grand jurors took this case seriously. Maybe their houses will be burned to the ground during protests. Let's see how they like that.

Anonymous said...

The people who shrug their shoulders at this would sing a different tune if the kid in that photo were white.

Anonymous said...

LS, are you going to disavow the comment of 9:09?

Anonymous said...

As I recall, Troy officials begged protesters not to tear up the town, and protesters obliged -- stayed very calm. This is the cheat job they get in return.

legalschnauzer said...

@10:56 --

No, there is nothing to disavow. The person is not calling for houses to be burned. It's an example of hyperbole, which many people use in writing, especially on emotional subjects. A more common term is exaggeration, something not meant to be taken literally.

Anonymous said...

Recently written by John Archibald, Al.com, "Why is Alabama so corrupt?", he should know, being far more wiser than those subscribing/listening/viewing to-the Alabama medias; true, it can be said such journalism indifferences, bias, and what could be in some tragedies, complicit in cover ups after having been made knowledgeable by private citizen's facts contributing towards advancing such cases resolving. Hypocrites, intended deceptions of the public through the "powers" of the pen borderlines criminal, sinks to "Yellow Journalist" tactics, for others self serving motives.

One is left to wonder the influence and accomplishments a united Alabama media and bloggers front would stir Alabamians to expose; thereafter holding accountable those corrupting "we the peoples" government's honest and moral operations.

Anonymous said...

Here is the key section from the post:

"[DA Michael] Jackson said the video showed the officer trying to get the second handcuff on Wilkerson and when he refused to comply, the officer struck him several times."


This confirms excessive force. Struck him "several times"? Is that five, 10, 15, 20, more?

legalschnauzer said...

@5:05 --

Good catch, and I agree with your conclusion. Were the grand jurors paying attention to anything? Was all the evidence presented to them, including the photo above?

Makes me wonder.

Anonymous said...

This is in line with Alabama history. The state almost never does what's right on its own. The feds usually have to come in and force us to do the right thing. So many in our state are like a bunch of spoiled, belligerent children.

Anonymous said...

Everyone involved should have been indicted and from what I read the prosecutors obviously didn't do well in their presentation of the case or they just had a sorry grand jury who wasn't interested due to all the publicity of the case. No matter the situation it wasn't necessary for the brutal beaten he endured. I hope this case goes to the highest power of the law possible and Ulysses and his family get justice and closure of this matter. The police is suppose to protect and service not beat and darn near kill someone and cause vision problems. The case should have b een t as Ken to another county with a different grand jury. It is my prayer the next victime they profile isn't killed by this ego stroke.

Keesha Williams said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

#Justice4Fat ok so now all of sudden it's a video the judicial system always fails us blacks but we shall stand up & get justice we will never get it in Pike county but once it's tried in Montgomery these cops will be charged God will make them suffer