There were 12 defendants charged in connection with the Aug. 14, 2017, toppling of a Confederate statue in Durham, N.C., and by Tuesday afternoon, the charges had been dropped against all of them, ending what one local attorney described as “a waste of taxpayer money in the name of the Confederacy, of all things.”
The Herald Sun reports that Durham County District Attorney Roger Echols announced Tuesday that he would be dropping the charges against the final five defendants in the case.
His announcement came after the judge in the case acquitted one defendant and dismissed the charges against two others Monday because he believed that the prosecution had failed to prove that the defendants were guilty of injury to real property, defacing a public building or monument, and conspiracy to deface a public building or monument.
The acquittal and dismissals came before the defense even put on its case.
T. Greg Doucette, a Durham criminal-defense attorney, told The Root, “It’s the morally right outcome for sure.”
Doucette said that the dismissals expose the Durham County Sheriff’s Office.
“They spent so much time charging people rather than gathering evidence that 100 percent of the charges they filed have now been dismissed,” he said.
Echols told the Herald Sun that his office had presented all the evidence it had, and since it would have used that same evidence against the five remaining defendants, it made no sense to continue to prosecute the cases.
“For my office to continue to take these cases to trial based on the same evidence would be a misuse of state resources,” Echols said.
Echols told the Herald Sun that his decision to prosecute in the first place was the right one.
“Acts of vandalism, regardless of noble intent, are still a violation of law,” he said.
Doucette told The Root that it was surprising to see the cases dropped—especially with the amount of video evidence available.
“To have a judge dismiss two cases at the close of the government’s case—before the defense even presents anything—is surprising,” Doucette said.
“To then find a third not guilty outright, after a full trial, is astonishing,” he continued. “Especially with how much video was available. It reflects a near-total absence of substantive investigation. These were impulse charges to satisfy public pressure.
“A waste of taxpayer money in the name of the Confederacy, of all things,” Doucette added.
Doucette praised the defense for doing its job. He also praised Echols for knowing when to fold.
“I appreciate defense attorney Scott Holmes and his team for holding the government to its burden of proof, and give high praise to District Attorney Roger Echols for recognizing it would be a further waste of money to keep prosecuting these cases,” he said.