Officer’s Murder Trial Paused Because Judge Implied That Police Were Racist
Officer Aaron Smith’s Trial Put On Hold
Montgomery, AL – On Friday, September 1, the Alabama Supreme Court put on hold the murder trial of Montgomery Police Officer Aaron Smith due to a Facebook post by presiding Judge Greg Griffin.
The Supreme Court Justices issued a temporary stay on all proceedings in the case, according to U.S. News & World Report, while it reviews the matter.
The trial was scheduled to begin in October. Eight justices agreed with the decision, and one judge recused himself.
Officer Smith, who is white (this is relevant to the issue with the judge,) is charged in the February 26, 2016 shooting and death of of Greg Gunn, who is black.
Officer Smith’s defense attorney said that he stopped to talk to Gunn who was walking in a heavily burglarized area at 3:20 AM.
He did not activate his patrol car’s lights when he stopped and the incident wasn’t recorded. During the incident, the two ended up in an altercation where Officer Smith used a Taser on Gunn three times and hit him with a baton. The fight ended when Officer Smith shot Gunn five times.
While Officer Smith tried to used several less-lethal methods at first, this appears to be getting used as evidence that Officer Smith was “beating” Gunn before killing him.
In his initial interview, Officer Smith said that Gunn swung a paint roller rod at him. He later said that he wasn’t sure that the rod was swung at him and Gunn’s fingerprints weren’t found on the rod.
Officer Smith’s defense attorney, Roianne Conner, is seeking the recusal of Judge Griffin, who is black, after the judge claimed in a Facebook post that he had been racially profiled by police.
In the Facebook post, which was written before he was assigned Officer Smith’s case for trial, Judge Griffin said that he had been stopped during his morning walk by police officers.
He said that officers told him that he matched the description of a person that had been reported in the area, who had a crowbar.
Judge Griffin said that he showed the officers his judicial badge. He wrote in the post, “It was aggravating to be detained when the only thing I was guilty of was being a black man walking down the street in his neighborhood with a stick in his hand.”
Not only is it disturbing that a judge would think that police shouldn’t stop people without knowing that they are guilty ahead of time, but that he assumed that he was racially profiled as well.
The Alabama Court of Appeals heard Conner’s request for a different judge in a May hearing, after Judge Griffin refused to recuse himself, according to Fox News.
At the hearing, she said that she “wasn’t claiming that Griffin was biased” but that “judicial ethics rules required judges to avoid even ‘appearances of impropriety.'”
The Court of Appeals said that Judge Griffin should not be recused. The case then went before the Alabama Supreme Court who put a hold on the trial.