Did Wa. Cop Doing His Job Commit Murder?
The Seattle Times via YellowBrix
April 15, 2010
EVERETT, WA — Snohomish County jurors began hearing a case Wednesday that will ultimately require them to answer an extremely rare and difficult question: Did a police officer commit murder when he shot a belligerent, drunken driver outside a restaurant.
Prosecutors allege Everett Officer Troy Meade intentionally killed Niles Meservey, 51, on the night of June 10 in the parking lot of the Chuckwagon Inn in North Everett, constituting second-degree murder.
Meade, 41, who joined the department in 1998 and is on paid administrative leave, also has been charged with first-degree manslaughter for allegedly acting recklessly. Jurors will have the option of convicting him of one or both criminal counts, or acquitting him.
Meade maintains he feared he was going to be hit by Meservey’s car during the incident, and that he fired eight shots out of fear he would be seriously injured or killed.
In opening statements at Meade’s trial Wednesday, prosecutor John Adcock and defense attorney David Allen laid out sharply different accounts of what occurred when Meade responded to a call that a highly intoxicated Meservey was about to drive from the parking lot.
Adcock said Meade’s job was to “serve and protect.”
But on the night of the incident, “the defendant did neither,” said Adcock, who told jurors that another Everett officer who was at the scene will testify Meservey posed no danger to him or Meade throughout the incident.
Meservey was in his Corvette, parked between two cars and facing a fence, with Meade’s patrol car parked 15 feet behind in a perpendicular position, Adcock said.
The other officer, Steven Klocker, heard Meservey refuse Meade’s orders to get out of the car, Adcock said.
Meade eventually shot Meservey twice with Tasers, but Meservey was able to start his car, Adcock said.
Klocker told Meade he was going to put Meade’s car bumper to bumper with the Corvette, but before he could do that Klocker heard eight gunshots.
According to charging papers, Meservey had driven into the chain-link fence just before the shots were fired. Meade had continued to yell at Meservey to get out of the car, then Klocker heard Meade say something like: “Time to end this; enough is enough” before Meade fired the shots through the car’s rear window, charging papers say.
Investigators determined Meade was standing to the rear and left of the Corvette and was “not in any danger of being struck,” Adcock told the jury.
Klocker reported that he and Meade still had other nonlethal options and never were in imminent danger during the incident, Adcock said.
At the end of his remarks, Adcock told jurors that “no one is above the law. No one. Not a police officer, not this defendant.”
In the defense opening, Allen told jurors Meade will testify during the trial. The lawyer challenged Klocker’s credibility, saying the reason Klocker wasn’t in danger was because he ran away without backing up Meade.
Allen said it wasn’t until two weeks after the incident that Klocker told investigators he remembered the “enough is enough” remark.
During the incident, Meade knew Meservey was seriously intoxicated, which was supported by a finding that Meservey had a blood-alcohol level of 0.26, more than three times the state’s legal limit, and that the Taser had been ineffective, Allen said.
Meade also was cognizant of a similar incident in 2006, when he witnessed another officer get hit and injured by a car driven by a suspect who appeared drunk or on drugs, Allen said. Another officer narrowly avoided being hit, Allen added.
When Meade saw the Corvette’s backup lights come on after the car hit the fence, the officer knew he was in danger of being hit and feared being killed or maimed, Allen said.
After hearing all the evidence, Allen told the jury, they will conclude Meade’s action was justifiable.
“He was out doing his duty, and doing it well,” Allen said.