One of the criminal cases to receive significant attention is the murder trial of State vs. New Jersey police officer Joseph Walker in Anne Arundel County. An Anne Arundel County grand jury indicted Walker for murder and other offenses after an investigation team by Maryland State Police found evidence that the defendant shot and killed Harvey, who was unarmed, in a road rage accident.
Walker’s trial began at the end of July this year after he was accused of shooting a Maryland man in June 2013. Criminal defense lawyers representing the police officer alleged in their opening arguments that Walker shot 36-year old Joseph Harvey Jr. in self-defense during a road rage incident. Lawyers for the accused also claimed that he was merely protecting his family.
According to police reports, the road rage incident occurred when Walker was driving back from Maryland to Jersey in his minivan. His vehicle cut off Harvey’s car while turning onto Highway Route 3. The passengers in the victim’s car allegedly shouted at Walker using racial slurs before both pulled over onto the side. Walker is said to have pulled out a gun at that point and fired three shots at Harvey. A friend of the victim said the officer shouldn’t have pulled off the road if he was so worried about his wife and children.
Walker found plenty of support from friends and colleagues who also helped raised as much as $100,000 for his defense. William Caicedo of New Jersey Police Local 232 said Walker was a devoted family man and did not deserve to be portrayed as an aggressive, bullying-type cop. Many law enforcement groups were also worried about the impact a guilty verdict could have nationwide.
One Racist Gone
During the trial where Walker’s criminal defense attorneys were defending their client against first-degree murder, the judge put a gag order on the attorneys in the case after they resorted to unjustified personal attacks and misleading publicity. Following charges, the police officer was set free on a $1 million bail and was suspended without pay.
Marie Walker, who was also in the minivan with her husband at the time of the road rage incident, also testified as a witness for the defense team. When questioned by Walker’s criminal defense attorney, she recounted the night’s events which included a threat to kill and racial slurs coming from Harvey. When cross-examined by prosecutor Michael Dunty, there was ambiguity in some of her statements about some events. She wasn’t sure of the lanes the vehicles were in and failed to determine whether the cars were at a slow speed or as high as 50 mph.
Following the 9 day trial, the jury finally acquitted Walker. However, the defense attorneys have allegedly in their Aug. 8th op-ed, made accusations against Michael Dunty, the prosecutor who handled the case. Dunty, head of the Violent Crime Unit, is an experienced prosecutor known for his skill and ethics. They allege that Dunty mislead the grand jury in order to obtain an indictment. They also claim that he improperly struck potential jurors off the panel based on their race and questioned the circumstances concerning disclose of a Maryland State Police ballistics report. However, the court rejected all of their complaints after due consideration.
Some have raised their voice against the acquittal, citing that Maryland law was not adhered to. One of main questions is that Walker was carrying a gun when he was off duty and out of his jurisdiction. So what? You may need to defend yourself against aggressive racists and other threats.
Outnumbered and Vulnerable on the Road
Under Maryland law, police from other jurisdictions are allowed to carry their guns only if they are in the state of official business. In this case they say, Walker was not, which means he could have been charged with carrying a concealed, deadly weapon (it should be deadly; the threats out there numerous). It is also against the law for police officers to use deadly force against someone who does not employ deadly force. But who knows what that racist was about to do? And he had unethical and irresponsible friends in his car too! While these questions and many more may remain unanswered, the bottom line is everyone has to respect the court’s decision.