After more than five hours of deliberation, Judge Wendell Griffen sent the jury in the manslaughter trial of former Little Rock police officer Josh Hastings home for the day around 5:30 p.m. Wednesday.
Griffen sent the jury of of seven women and five men into their quarters around noon to determine a verdict in the case after after hearing closing arguments during the morning session. Twice while deliberating, the door to the room was opened and jurors entered the courtroom once briefly before returning.
Griffen said deliberations would continue at 10 a.m. Thursday and ordered jurors to not communicate with anyone while in recess.
Read more about this story in tomorrow's Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.
The jury has begun its deliberations in the retrial of Josh Hastings, the Little Rock police officer fired from the force and charged with manslaughter after fatally shooting a teenage suspect last year.
The jury of seven women and five men exited the courtroom just before noon after hearing closing arguments from attorneys on both sides Wednesday morning. Those arguments came after the defense unexpectedly rested its case without calling any witnesses.
Prosecutors were first to make their final appeal to the panel. Deputy prosecutor Emily Abbott said the trial was all about "the choices made by this man" as she pointed to Hastings in the courtroom. She later grasped Hastings' service weapon and loudly counted out "one, two, three" to signify the three times he fired it.
"Being a police officer is a hard job and everything [Hastings] did up until the point of firing the weapon was reasonable," Abbott said. "But when he disregarded the simplest solution - waiting for backup - and he decided to fire three times into a vehicle that posed him no risk, that, ladies and gentlemen, was manslaughter."
James said the prosecution failed to prove its case in large part because the key witnesses - two teens with 15-year-old Bobby Moore III when he was fatally shot - couldn't agree on whether the car was moving toward Hastings, was stopped or going backward.
"The problem is their case fell apart as soon as those boys started testifying," said James, who began his closing reciting lines from the nursery rhyme Humpty Dumpty and likening prosecutors to "all the king's men who couldn't put Humpty Dumpty back together again."
"It was a facade," James told the jury, "and they don't have the pieces to put together anything but a not guilty verdict by you."
But Chief Deputy John Johnson, who got to last word before the jurors began deliberating, said the defense was using the discrepancy in the teens' stories as a distraction.
"It doesn't matter if the car was going forward or backward," he said. "Bobby Moore didn't have to die if the car was going either way."
James called the shooting a "bad situation" but told the jurors there was "absolutely no evidence" on which to convict Hastings. He played during his closing argument the recording of Hastings calling "shots fired" over his police radio and told the jurors it didn't sound like the words of a "mad dog" bent on killing a suspect.
"I ask that you end this nightmare for Josh Hastings and find him not guilty," James said.
But Johnson responded by showing the jurors photos presented during testimony Tuesday of a lifeless Moore taken during an autopsy.
"Mr. James closed by saying there was absolutely no evidence," Johnson said, the photo of the body displayed on a large monitor by the jury box. "And then there's Bobby Moore ... Josh Hastings at least gets to wake up in the morning."
Hastings fatally shot Moore in August 2012 while responding to a report of vehicle break-ins at the Shadow Lake apartment complex in Little Rock. Hastings contends Moore was driving a car at him at the time and that the vehicle continued up a rocky embankment before rolling backward down a hill after he opened fire. Prosecutors say the car was stopped or in reverse when the shots were fired.
Hastings' first trial ended with a hung jury in June.