As we watch with bated breath, and not a little bit of apprehension, for the outcome of the high-profile trial of former police officer Derek Chauvin in a case of brutality against a Black man, a St. Louis jury’s failure to return a guilty verdict for any of the officers charged with beating a fellow cop while he was working undercover at a protest underscores the persisting challenges of holding police accountable in America.
CNN reports that a federal jury on Monday returned mixed verdicts in the case against three white police officers—Steven Korte, Christopher Myers and Dustin Boone—charged with deprivation of rights under the color of the law, on the allegation that they brutalized Black police officer Luther Hall during a 2017 protest against the police shooting of a Black man in St. Louis.
I know it’s meta, but racism in America is nothing if not multilayered and cruelly ironic.
Korte was also facing charges of lying to the FBI in relation to the incident, which earned Hall a $5 million agreement from the city of St. Louis in February to settle a civil lawsuit he had filed. Myers was also charged with destroying evidence in the case. Federal agents had unearthed text messages sent by the officers bragging about their plans to “whoop some ass” and “just f-people up” at the September 2017 protest where Hall was working undercover. In his civil suit, Hall accused the officers of kicking him in his face and beating him with a riot baton, leaving him with multiple injuries, including a concussion.
But jurors found Korte and Myers not guilty of the charges of deprivation of rights under the color of the law, and on Monday the judge declared a mistrial in terms of the case against Boone (who is the officer investigators say texted about “beating the hell” out of people at the protest in question).
Defense attorney Patrick Kilgore had argued that his client, Boone, was not under trial for sending text messages, reports KMOV news.
Korte was also found not guilty of lying to the FBI, while a mistrial was declared on the charge against Myers for destroying evidence. All but one member of the jury was white, and they deliberated for over 13 hours before coming back with the mixed verdicts, reports KSDK news.
“Police officers continue to escape the consequences of their actions,” the Ethical Society of Police, a group founded by Black police officers in St. Louis, said in a statement on the verdicts. “The criminal justice system continues to show African-American victims of police violence we do not receive the same level of justice when white police officers are accused of excessive force toward African Americans.”
It appears the only officers who will face actual consequences for the gruesome beating of Hall are former cops Randy Hays and Bailey Colletta, who, in 2018 and 2019 respectively, pleaded guilty to deprivation of constitutional rights and lying to the grand jury and investigators in the case.
Hays admitted to hitting Hall and testified that Korte kicked the Black cop in the face, prosecutors had argued during the trial. Korte and Hall both still work for the St. Louis Police Department.
No matter the propensity of evidence in cases against police, it’s clear we have a long way to go before the justice system in America actually starts handing down justice equally.
The prosecution could retry the officers on the charges that ended in a mistrial, but it is not yet clear if they will do so.