Saturday, October 10, 2009

Fourth time still was not the charm

When Kimberly Hudson's boyfriend called police, I'm sure he had no idea what he had started. In April 2007, Hudson was drunk and despondent, threatening to kill herself with a knife. The police who responded to her boyfriend's call found Hudson asleep in her bed, still clutching the knife. By the end of the encounter, Hudson was shot in the chest and arm and charged with assaulting a police officer.

In that above paragraph, alone, there is plenty of fodder for me to rant about. This story certainly doesn't do much to encourage people dealing with suicidal loved ones to hope that the police might actually help diffuse the situation. Once again, we have police seemingly reacting to any and all perceived threats by shooting first. I have complained before that our nation's police forces are resorting to the use of deadly force (and yes, I'm including tasers) far too quickly. I would prefer to have a police force that is well-trained to be patient, to handle difficult situations. I could also spend a few paragraphs on the need for prosecutorial discretion at the initial charging stage. Is there really any need to file assault on a LEO charges against a suicidal woman who was shot twice? I would assume the hospital that treats her physical wounds might also spend a few minutes on her psychological needs, which really seem to be the root cause of any problem here.

But the office that prosecuted Hudson never reached that conclusion. Instead, they took her to trial. Four times. Three trials ended in hung juries. One jury did convict her, but the trial judge granted her a new trial finding that prosecution errors had prejudiced the jury. (And I could write an entire post about my frustration that the prosecution gets a second chance when their own errors are the reason the trial verdict can't stand.)

The dispute in this case is over where Hudson was when police shot her. They maintain she had gotten off the bed and was coming towards them with the knife. She swears she never got off the bed. The state's expert witness says it's not possible to determine where she was when she was shot. The defense expert witness says it's clear she was still on the bed. If she was standing on the floor, I can't help but wonder why there wasn't any blood spatter on the carpet. Oh, and one of the officers testified Hudson was told she would be shot if she took another step, but the cop's microphone (on her belt) didn't hear it.

So there are serious evidentiary flaws in the state's case. And we have a suicidal woman who was shot twice. She certainly doesn't seem to have posed any threat to anyone since this incident. There are also no indications that her mental health is still a concern. One would think that after three hung juries and an overturned verdict, the prosecution team might start to question the wisdom of asking the court to pick jury #5. But, no. The state didn't really want to dismiss the charges. The state may not know when to say when, but at least the judge finally reached the conclusion that another trial wasn't justified. On Friday, the court entered a judgment of acquittal, meaning the state will not be able to pursue the charge against Hudson. Nor can the state appeal the judgment of acquittal. The prosecutor stated only that he is "disappointed" by the decision.

Well, I'm disappointed that the district attorney doesn't have the sense to allocate his resources better than this. Hudson's father spent $140,000 on her legal fees for the four trials. One must assume the DA's office also put a lot of staff time into trying this case four times. Each trial occupied the judge and his courtroom. Each trial required selection of a new jury, along with the payment of juror stipends (not big, but they do add up). And those cops and responding paramedics had to testify at each trial, taking them away from their regular duties each time. Not to mention the other witnesses. And, of course, there's the stress Hudson and her family endured for two and a half years waiting for this case to be resolved. How many hung juries would it take to clue this prosecution team into the fact that they really didn't have a viable case? What a giant waste of resources, all for a charge that probably didn't need to be filed in the first place.

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