Defensive Gamble Cleared Miami Cop of Manslaughter Charges With AM-Miami Riot-Lessons, Bjt
ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) _ Defense lawyer Roy Black took a big gamble and won.
Without presenting a single witness himself, he destroyed the credibility of five people who testified against Miami policeman William Lozano and won an acquittal on manslaughter charges that could have meant a seven-year prison sentence.
Black, who says strategy is what he likes best about his profession, said he stayed up until 3 a.m. the night before his decision to rest the case for the defense. That meant calling no witnesses and not allowing Lozano to tell his story directly to the jury.
″Since we won, I looked good. If we had lost, I would’ve looked like an idiot,″ said Black, the lead defense attorney in 1991 when William Kennedy Smith was acquitted of rape charges in Palm Beach County.
The 1989 shooting by Lozano in Miami’s Overtown district set off three days of riots in the impoverished area. Black used Overtown, wracked by crime and drug dealing, to his advantage in emotional appeals to the central Florida jury of three whites, two Hispanics and one black.
Black and co-counsel Mark Seiden didn’t really need to put the Colombian- born Lozano on the stand - as they did four years ago in his first trial in Miami, where Lozano was convicted. Many said at the time that Lozano’s performance on the witness stand hurt, more than helped, him.
This time, his lawyers used every prosecution witness, every police officer, technician and expert to make their point again and again: Police are like unsung soldiers arrayed against the forces of evil.
Prosecutors John Hogan and Jerald Bagley were fighting a losing battle in central Florida, where support for police officers runs high, said Donald Jones, professor of criminal procedure at the University of Miami School of Law.
Lozano was retried in Orlando because an appeals court ruled in 1991 that the Miami jury that convicted him in late 1989 was under pressure because of the threat of renewed violence.
And Circuit Judge W. Thomas Spencer ″gave a green light to self-defense claims″ by an earlier ruling that the prosecution could not present evidence that Lozano was violating police procedure by firing his gun at a moving vehicle, Jones said.
Prosecutors said Lozano, 33, was criminally negligent by stepping out into the street, taking careful aim with his semiautomatic handgun and firing a single shot that killed motorcyclist Clement Lloyd, 23, on Jan. 16, 1989 - Martin Luther King’s birthday.
The ensuing crash of the motorcycle killed Lloyd’s passenger, Allan Blanchard, 24.
Invoking images of hero cops vs. drug-crazed criminals, and of God, Jesus Christ and inner-city violence, Black said in his closing argument to the attentive jury: ″You people stand between William Lozano and a great injustice.″
Just like soldiers, police officers are the last people to want confrontation, the professorial Black lectured, his tall angular frame moving easily before the jurors he had personally interviewed at length just two weeks before.
″Criminals see that white police officer, and that badge is a target,″ he said.
Miami, he told them repeatedly, is one of the nation’s most crime-ridden cities and Overtown its worst neighborhood.
Then one-by-one, he took apart the stories of the three men and two women who had witnessed the shooting scene from different viewpoints, implying broadly that they had talked among themselves, investigators and others about what to say.
A strong rebuttal argument by Hogan failed to sway jurors about witnesses who couldn’t reconcile what they were saying in court with what they had said numerous times to investigators, prosecutors, defense attorneys and in the previous trial.
″I can say that the eyewitnesses did not make me believe beyond a reasonable doubt that he was guilty,″ one juror told reporters. ″That’s all we had to decide.″