A Florida judge publicly dressed down a defense attorney who suggested that his black client fled from the police to avoid another incident of police brutality.
Judge John “Jay” Harley, of Broward County, told public defender Dale Miller not to “poison” the case by bringing up recent, nationally reported stories about African-American men dying at the hands of white police officers.
The attorney was referring to the recent reports about Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri and Eric Garner in Staten Island, New York. Both of those African-American men were killed by white police officers and the cases received national attention when grand juries refused to indict either one of the policemen involved.
Defense attorney Dale Miller tried to reference those events when making the case to the judge that his client fled for fear of his safety.
“Your honor, in light of what’s happening in this country with unarmed black men being killed by police, him running from shots being fired is a very reasonable response,” Miller said.
“Don’t give me that,” the judge responded. “That is so off base.”
Police said that a bullet shattered the windshield of an undercover police officer in an unmarked patrol while he was following a suspicious vehicle early Monday morning.
The officer had noticed a car driving slowly with its lights off. When he pulled up behind the vehicle, somebody took a shot at him. He was hurt but remains on duty.
After the shooting, police officers pursued the suspects. One of those suspects, Stephen Hall Clarke, was represented by Miller, who said that his client fled out of concern for his safety.
However, the judge noted that Miller had reasons to flee that had nothing to do with current events.
“We’ve got a young man, I don’t care what color he is, he’s in a neighborhood he doesn’t live in at 1:41 in the morning, hiding under somebody’s dock in the water with a holster on after a police officer had a shot taken at him,” Hurley said.
“Don’t hand me this, ‘running from police brutality [argument],'” he continued. “That is not appropriate in this case. I’m not going to let you poison this case with bringing in something that has nothing to do with it.”
The judge later apologized for his outburst.
“I just want to apologize,” Hurley said. “I got a little worked up there but I just want to be clear that we stick to the facts of the case and we don’t go off on tangents.”
Clarke’s bond was initially set at $203,500 but was later reduced to $25,000.[Image credit: Wikipedia]