By George Marlowe
22 April 2015
On Monday, Cook County judge Dennis Porter threw out all charges against a Chicago police officer involved in the fatal shooting of Rekia Boyd in March 2012.
Judge Porter ruled that the prosecutors failed to prove Servin guilty of reckless actions and manslaughter. The courtroom, heavily guarded by police and security personnel, erupted in anger as Boyd’s relatives and friends shouted down the officer and the judge.
On March 21, 2012, Dante Servin, the off-duty police officer who shot and killed Boyd, provocatively sought to quiet and disperse a large group of people enjoying a unseasonably warm March night in the highly impoverished Lawndale neighborhood.
According to witnesses, Servin began aggressively pointing his gun at bystander Anthony Cross, who was talking on his cell phone. The Chicago Police Department (CPD) maintained that Cross was pointing a gun at the off-duty officer, who sought to defend himself. Police never recovered a weapon. The disgruntled Servin fired at least five shots in Cross’s direction and one bullet grazed his hand and hit the head of nearby Rekia Boyd, killing her.
Porter’s ruling was little more than legalistic sophistry in defense of the police officer’s actions. He claimed—under Illinois law and previous precedent—that a person who shoots a gun in the intended direction of a victim cannot be charged with manslaughter, but has to be charged with first-degree murder.
“It is easy to say, ‘Of course [Servin] was reckless. He intentionally shot in the direction of a group of people on the sidewalk. That is really dangerous.’ It is easy to think that way, but it is wrong. It ignores the law on this subject,” said Porter, according to the Chicago Tribune .
Since prosecutors sought a charge of manslaughter and reckless action instead of first-degree murder, the charges would have to be dismissed, according to Porter. On the basis of this legal technicality, charges of murder now cannot be brought up against Servin because of double jeopardy.
The trial itself was a rare instance of a criminal prosecution of a Chicago police officer for a fatal shooting. In November 2013, Cook County State’s Attorney brought the charges of involuntary manslaughter, reckless discharge of a weapon and reckless conduct.
According to Alvarez—presumably aware of the differences of legal technicality of involuntary manslaughter and intentional murder when firing a gun at a crowd of people—the charges were brought against the officer “only after a very careful legal analysis of the evidence as well as the specific circumstances of this crime.” The judge himself delivered a rare instance of a “directed verdict,” which is an order from a presiding judge to deliver a particular verdict.
Security personnel escorted several protesters and relatives out of the emotionally charged and tense courtroom. Boyd’s mother Angela Helton tearfully told the press, “He literally blew her brains out. Her brains were lying in the alley… I don’t like the justice system. They could have found him guilty of something! He murdered my daughter in cold blood!”
Martinez Sutton, Boyd’s brother, spoke to a large crowd and condemned the ruling. He told everyone that the results of the ruling “tells you that anybody with a badge can kill any one of y’all out here.” He added, “It’s not about color anymore. It’s people wearing the badge disrespecting their badge.”
The ruling covering up the police killing of Boyd comes on the heels of a spate of police killings all across the country, with the full sanction of the political establishment. Police officers daily get away with fatal shootings and murder with legal impunity.
At the same time, in an effort to forestall mass outrage against police brutality and torture, the City of Chicago recently announced two separate financial deals to try and contain mass outrage against decades of police torture and ongoing police brutality.
The Chicago City Council recently approved a $5 million settlement with the family of a teenager who died after being shot by a Chicago police officer 16 times last October. Federal investigators and FBI prosecutors were brought in to investigate the shooting of 17-year-old Laquan, as the CPD alleged he was wielding a knife and “lunged” at police officers.
The city is paying the settlement while simultaneously refusing to release police dash-cam video of the shooting. Aldermen, saying they themselves did not need to see the video, unanimously approved the $5 million payment to MacDonald’s family before they had a chance to file a lawsuit.
While the family’s attorney stated that the financial settlement was part of a “fair and prompt resolution,” the payout is an attempt to preempt a federal lawsuit on the fatal shooting and to contain mass outrage from boiling over.
In a separate case, city officials with the backing of Mayor Rahm Emanuel recently announced that a $5.5 million reparations fund will be set up for at least fifty victims of the torture that occurred for over two decades under CPD police commander Jon Burge, with the full complicity of the city’s Democratic party political establishment. As recent reports from The Guardian showed, torture is alive and well in the CPD with interrogation and torture “black sites” like Homan Square .