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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

By 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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Wow, I would guess the family is not happy with the services of their attorney. They went after the deep pockets and got nothing. I wonder how much their attorney charged them?

Posted by: gpl2411 | January 28, 2010 10:34 PM | Report abuse

I believe in a civil case that the lawyers only get paid if they win the case.

Posted by: anacostia85 | January 28, 2010 11:11 PM | Report abuse

anacostia85 -- that is not always true. In some civil lawsuits, the attorney may very well demand a retainer from the client to cover expenses such as filing fees, depositions, and various other expenses to start a case. In one case where one party was filing suit against his employer for wrongful termination and Hostile Workplace environment, all lawyers that the person consulted with to represent him, wanted $5000 to start the case, and they all told him his case was a good case!

Posted by: APOSTreader | January 29, 2010 8:26 AM | Report abuse

I sat in this trial. Mr. Washington was attacked! I don't know what happened at that criminal trial, but you should've seen and heard the evidence in this one. One of those delivery guys went into Washington's daughter's bedroom, and Washington told them to get out and leave. The two guys then attacked Washington, and he was on the floor being attacked. At that point, he shot them, he said to defend himself and his wife and baby daughter. This was confirmed by when they played the 911 tape in court, you could hear the wife running out of the house with her daughter, crying and breathing hard telling 911 that her husband was just attacked. That 911 tape doesn't lie.

The attorneys for the other side (I thought they were for Washington, but I guess they were for the County) also had a bunch of photos that showed where the bullet shells landed after Washington shot the gun, and a police guy who was trained by the FBI talk about how the gun works, and where those bullet shells were found backed up Washington's version, not the delivery guys.

They also talked about how the DNA of one of the movers was found on the officer's gun and how they did these FBI forensic tests to show that when the two movers were shot they were real close to Washington, maybe less than a foot, and something else about finding traces of fabric or fibers from one of the movers' clothes on Washington. For me, all of this shows that Washington was attacked.

One of the movers said they were walking out of the bedroom or down the stairs when they got shot. And one of the movers actually said that after he was shot on the stairs instead of running out of the house he walked back up stairs towards Washington, the man who he claimed just shot him, and then walked by him and went down the to the far end of the hall and just sat down. The other side showed photos of the hall and carpet and there wasn't any blood trail. That just doesn't make sense. Heck, the mover who survived actually said in court that he was previously convicted for burglary and something else about crime or stealing.

I feel bad for the parents of the one mover who died, but I also feel bad for Washington who is apparently in jail for this.

Posted by: fran701 | January 29, 2010 10:02 AM | Report abuse


Posted by: FatzOne | January 29, 2010 11:26 AM | Report abuse

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