Jury continues work in trial of officer who broke man's jaw

AP News
|
Posted: Dec 07, 2015 5:24 PM

DOVER, Del. (AP) — Jurors ended a second day of deliberations with no verdict Monday in the trial of a white Delaware police officer charged with assault after breaking a black suspect's jaw with a kick.

The jury deliberated for about seven hours Monday following more than four hours of deliberations Friday in the case of Dover officer Thomas Webster IV.

The jurors will reconvene Tuesday morning.

Outside the courthouse Monday, a handful of protesters demonstrated, carrying signs with slogans including "Black Lives Matter" and "Justice Now." One sign read "Guilty" above a photograph of Webster and "Bad Cops" below his photo.

Prompted by a similar demonstration Sunday at a local shopping mall calling for fairness in the justice system, Webster's defense attorney, Jim Liguori, sent an email to the judge asking him to verify whether jurors, who may have been Christmas shopping this weekend, had obeyed the court's instructions to avoid media accounts of the trial or read any outside material.

It was not immediately clear how Judge Ferris Wharton responded to Liguori's email.

Late Monday morning, jurors sent a note to the judge asking if they could have a dictionary to help them define "gross deviation" or if Wharton could define the term for them.

To convict Webster of felony assault, jurors must find that he caused serious physical injury and that he acted intentionally or in a reckless manner that was a gross deviation from the standard of conduct a reasonable person would observe in the situation.

The judge denied the jury's request for a dictionary and informed them that Delaware law does not specifically define "gross deviation." He told jurors that in the absence of specific legal definition, they must use the "common, ordinary understanding" of the words.

Webster testified during the trial that he didn't intend to kick Lateef Dickerson in the head in 2013 and was aiming for Dickerson's upper body. He also said he feared for his safety and the safety of others because Dickerson was reportedly armed with a gun and was slow to comply with repeated police commands to get on the ground.

Prosecutors say Webster acted recklessly and used excessive force.

Police dashcam video shows that Dickerson had placed his hands on the ground but wasn't fully prone when Webster kicked him.

Liguori has argued that Webster's actions were justified as he and other officers responded to reports of a fight involving a large group of people and a man matching Dickerson's description armed with a gun.

Liguori also has maintained that Webster's indictment was the result of "state machinations" and an "abuse of power." A grand jury declined to indict the officer after the encounter, but a second grand jury indicted Webster earlier this year.

Liguori has argued in court papers that Democratic Attorney General Matt Denn's decision to take the case to a second grand jury with no new evidence was a politically motivated response to nationwide scrutiny of police encounters with black citizens.