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Ex-LR officer seeks dismissal of manslaughter charge

By The Associated Press

This article was published April 3, 2014 at 7:11 a.m.

This undated handout photo provided by the Little Rock Police Department shows Little Rock Police Officer Joshua Hastings. Hasting is charged with ma...

LITTLE ROCK — A former Little Rock police officer charged with manslaughter in the shooting death of a 15-year-old boy is asking a judge to throw out the case to avoid having a third trial of the case.

The latest trial is scheduled to begin May 5 as prosecutors make another attempt to convince a jury that Josh Hastings was reckless when he fatally shot Bobby Moore III in 2012. Two previous juries couldn't reach a unanimous verdict. Hastings' most recent trial ended in September.

Attorney Bill James argues in court documents that Hastings should not have to endure a third trial, citing constitutional grounds of due process and fundamental fairness. Prosecutors haven't yet filed a response.

Circuit Judge Wendell Griffen ruled Wednesday that Hastings can't argue to the jury that he was justified in shooting into a car that approached him as he was investigating car burglaries at a Little Rock apartment complex.

As he did in the earlier trials, Griffen said he'd limit what the jury can hear to whether Hastings acted recklessly or not. Griffen argued that reckless behavior cannot be justified.

Griffen wrote in his Wednesday ruling that the manslaughter charge applies when someone is accused of having "consciously disregard(ed) a substantial and unjustifiable risk."

"If the prosecution fails to prove that an accused [person] acted recklessly, then the accused cannot be found guilty of manslaughter," Griffen wrote.

Hastings claims a car driven by Moore was moving toward him when he fired, but prosecutors say the physical evidence from the scene didn't match Hastings' version of events.

James and Griffen have tangled since the first trial in June 2013, with Griffen citing James for contempt and ultimately fining him $5,000, a sum he reduced from $25,000.

After the first jury could not reach a verdict, Griffen informed James of the 10 contempt counts for the way James characterized two juvenile witnesses who were in the car with the victim at the time of the shooting.

James has filed a motion asking Griffen to withdraw from the case, noting that Arkansas law allows a judge to be recused "if the judge has a personal bias or prejudice concerning a party or a party's lawyer."

Griffen hasn't ruled on that motion yet, but turned away a similar request before Hastings' second trial.

The judge also refused to give ground on rules he established for questioning prospective jurors. Griffen denied a motion by James that objected to Griffen requiring the sides to submit questions under seal for his approval before they could be asked of the jury panel.

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Pacorabone says... April 4, 2014 at 3:48 p.m.

From the evidence I have seen in the paper, it seems to me that the charges should be dropped. Three punks, breaking into a car in the early morning (2-3 am)... With gun pulled, the police officer shows up tell the punks to freeze, they disobey his commands and they get in their car and drive their car towards the officer, officer again tells them to freeze and get out of the car, the punks continue to drive toward the officer and he shoots.... Moral of the story.. Don't break into cars, obey the commands of a police office while you are in the act of committing a crime, don't drive your car towards the officer with his gun drawn on you.. I think there is a good defense for the officer shooting to protect himself.. Case should be dropped... The officer has already been fired, he might even be a little rogue. But, showing up to an apartment complex in the early morning where crime has been rampant, police witnesses three punks breaking into a car, the punks disobey the officer, get in their car and drive towards the officer.... I think I might shoot as well.

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