Pr. George's judge throws out Keith Washington civil case
Prince George's County is off the hook for the actions of Keith A. Washington, the officer who fatally shot one furniture deliveryman and wounded another back in 2007.
A judge dismissed the civil case in which Washington, also a former high-ranking county homeland security official, was accused of using excessive force in shooting the two men. The judge threw out the case before it ever got to the jury.
The motions to dismiss by associate county attorneys, were granted by Circuit Court Judge Sean A. Wallace. The first civil trial ended in a mistrial last March when the jury was unable to reach a verdict.
In 2008, a county criminal jury convicted Washington, now 48, of involuntary manslaughter and other offenses. Washington was sentenced to 45 years in prison, a sentence that is unaffected by the outcome of the civil case.
Washington was convicted of fatally shooting Brandon D. Clark, 22, and wounding Clark's cousin, Robert White, who is now 39.
The two men were delivering bed rails to Washington's Accokeek home in January 2007, when Washington -- who at the time was a county police corporal -- opened fire on the two men. White testified in Washington's criminal trial, and in the civil trials.
He said Washington became angry and began shooting them. Washington testified in his criminal trial and in both civil trials that Clark and White -- both of whom were much larger than he -- began beating him after they exchanged harsh words. Washington said he feared for his life and shot the men in self-defense.
Bowie attorney Michael Winkelman represented White and relatives of Clark. At the request of the plaintiffs, Wallace dropped Washington as a defendant. Winkelman said there was no point in keeping Washington as a defendant since he is serving a long prison sentence.
That left the county as a defendant. The county indemnifies police officers for their actions in the line of duty and pays any civil judgments or settlements. On Wednesday, attorneys for the county made a motion to, in effect, remove the county as a defendant, arguing that Washington was not acting as a police officer when he shot Clark and White.
Wallace agreed. "I do believe there's been insufficient evidence presented about the scope of (Washington's) employment," Wallace said in granting the defense motion.
On Thursday, Wallace (who was known for vigorously defending lawsuits against police officers when he was the county attorney) granted a defense motion for judgment --ruling that the plaintiffs had not presented enough evidence for the case to go to the jury.
-- Ruben Castaneda
January 28, 2010; 4:22 PM ET
Categories: From the Courthouse , Pr. George's , Ruben Castaneda | Tags: Judge Sean D. Wallace, Keith A. Washington, police abuse
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