Officer Acquitted of Murder in Drunk Driver's Death
Everett police Officer Troy Meade, right, is greeted by a supporter Monday after Meade was acquitted of murder and manslaughter charges in the fatal shooting of an uncooperative drunken driver. [AP]
The Seattle Times via YellowBrix
April 27, 2010
EVERETT, Wa. — Everett police Officer Troy Meade was found not guilty Monday of second-degree murder and first-degree manslaughter in the fatal shooting of a drunken man in a car last summer.
A six-man, six-woman Snohomish County jury had deliberated for roughly five hours since Friday before reaching its decision.
Meade didn’t react when the first “not guilty” verdict was announced, on the second-degree-murder charge. Only after he heard the second “not guilty” verdict, on the manslaughter charge, did he show obvious relief.
Everett Police Chief Jim Scharf was among the first to congratulate Meade, leaning in close for a whispered conversation with his officer.
After the verdict, Meade said he appreciated the support he received from friends, family and fellow officers. About 100 people packed the courtroom to hear the verdict, many Meade supporters who had sat through much of the two-week trial.
“The support has been wonderful,” Meade said moments later. “I’m going back to work.”
The jury now will decide whether Meade should be compensated for his prosecution. To grant that, jurors would have to find that Meade acted in self-defense when he shot Niles Meservey in a restaurant parking lot in June.
Under state law, a finding that someone killed in self-defense is the only situation where a jury can provide compensation to pay for a defendant’s attorney’s fees, court expenses and time lost in fighting a charge.
The jury couldn’t reach a decision on compensation Monday and was sent home. Jurors will resume weighing the issue Tuesday morning.
Deputy Prosecutor Matt Baldock commended the multiagency law-enforcement team for conducting what he called a thorough and professional investigation into the shooting of Meservey. The fact that the defense didn’t attack the credibility of the investigation “speaks volumes,” Baldock said, adding that the decision to charge Meade was made “deliberately and carefully” by his office.
Baldock encouraged jurors to find that Meade did not act in self-defense, a finding that is to be based on objective evidence — not Meade’s perception of danger at the time of the shooting.
“The key difference is the objective stand — we know objectively the car was not moving back toward him and he wasn’t in a place where he would be struck,” Baldock said after the jury had returned to the jury room.
Meservey’s daughter, Tanda Louden, said in a written statement that she was confident the family would prevail in a $15 million wrongful-death civil suit filed against the city of Everett in February. The lawsuit accuses Meade of using excessive force.
“I am sorry the jury was unable to convict Officer Meade of a crime, but I understand how difficult it is to obtain a conviction where there is a presumption of innocence and a burden of proving the case beyond a reasonable doubt,” Louden said in the statement. “Nevertheless, I am confident that a jury in a civil case will find Officer Meade responsible and hold him fully accountable in the damage case.”
Meade, 41, shot Meservey as he sat in his Chevrolet Corvette in the parking lot of the Chuckwagon Inn on the night of June 10. Meade was responding to a 911 call alerting police that an apparently drunken man was trying to drive away from the restaurant.
Meade testified last week that Meservey ignored several orders to get out of the car. When he started the engine and put the Corvette in gear, it lurched forward and struck a chain-link fence. At issue during the trial was whether Meservey had put the car in reverse or if the vehicle simply had bounced off the fence when Meade opened fire.
Meade testified that he was standing to the left and rear of the Corvette when it started to approach him, and feared for his life before he fired eight times into the car.
Meservey, 51, was shot seven times and died at the scene.
After the shooting, Meservey’s blood-alcohol level was measured at 0.26, more than three times the state’s legal limit.
Last week, Snohomish County Deputy Prosecutor John Adcock grilled Meade on cross-examination about other tactical options open to him, accusing Meade of using deadly force when he instead could have taken two steps back and used a nearby sport-utility vehicle for cover.
Everett police Officer Steven Klocker, also at the scene that night, testified he was “kind of at a loss” when Meade opened fire. “I was wondering what I missed to bring it to that extreme level of force,” Klocker testified.
Meade, who joined the Everett police in 1998, has been on paid administrative leave.
Prosecutors initially filed the lesser charge of manslaughter in October, accusing Meade of recklessly shooting Meservey. In March, prosecutors added the new charge of second-degree murder. To prove the new charge, prosecutors were required to convince the jury that Meade acted with intent to kill.
Jurors had the option of convicting Meade of one or both criminal counts, or acquitting him.
Meade’s attorney, David Allen, thanked jurors for ending Meade’s 10-month “nightmare” and allowing him to get on with his life.
“We’re very happy, very grateful and very thankful the jury reached the right verdict,” Allen said outside the courtroom.