Judge Tosses Indictment of NYPD Officer Who Killed Unarmed Ramarley Graham
BRONX SUPREME COURT — A Bronx judge dismissed the indictment against an NYPD officer charged with manslaughter for fatally shooting an unarmed Bronx teen in his own home last year, saying the Bronx District Attorney's office did not properly instruct the grand jury.
"He killed my child. What more can you do to me?" shouted Constance Malcolm, the mother of Ramarley Graham, as she stood up in tears and left the courtroom as Supreme Court Justice Steven L. Barrett explained that the instructions to the grand jury who indicted officer Richard Haste were faulty.
"With no great pleasure, I am obliged in this case to dismiss the charges," Barrett said Tuesday, eight days after he raised concerns about the jury instructions following his review of the grand jury minutes.
On Feb. 2, 2012, officers from a special narcotics unit chased Graham, 18, from White Plains Road and East 228th Street to his home at 749 E. 229th St. in Wakefield because cops investigating a drug deal believed Graham had a gun in his waistband.
Officers pursued Graham into his home and Haste fatally shot the teen in the bathroom after claims from Haste that Graham did not obey commands to show his hands.
Barrett said the Bronx D.A. made an error when it instructed the jury that it did not have to consider the communications other officers gave Haste that Graham had a gun in considering the indictment.
Haste attorney Stuart London has said in previous court hearings that the officer relied on multiple communications from his fellow officers that Graham had a gun.
"Inadvertently, the district attorney's instructions did mislead the jury," said Barrett, who said the instructions from the D.A.'s office to the grand jury not to consider the communications Haste received from other officers were "blatantly wrong."
No gun was found on Graham or in the bathroom of his home where he was killed.
Barrett said the misstep — though he believed it unintentional — was serious enough to "impair the integrity of the grand jury proceeding." He cited a question from the grand jury about their instruction on how to regard communications from other officers to Haste.
Bronx Assistant District Attorney Joseph Ferdenzi said the question from the grand jury was just a case of them being "conscientious" in their duties but Barrett disagreed.
"My job is to follow the law and that's what I'm going to do," said Barrett.
As Barrett was giving a verbal ruling that made it clear he was going to dismiss the indictment, the Graham family and their supporters broke into shouts and tears.
Malcolm stood up with tears streaming down her face and began shouting at the judge and Haste.
"He killed my child. You son of a b--ch," she screamed at Haste as she left the courtroom.
Haste sat stone-faced through the hearing. He did not turn around to look at Malcolm during her outburst nor when she addressed him on her way out of the courtroom.
Haste was called a "murderer" in the hallway by protesters as he left the courtroom. Outside the courthouse, approximately 50 protesters shouted "justice for Ramarley."
Patrolmen Benevolent Association President Patrick Lynch said the judge made the right decision because the information Haste received from other officers that day determined his actions.
"What they left out was the information that Officer Haste had when he was in this terrible tragedy. That information goes into decision-making that any police officer makes in these types of circumstances," said Lynch.
"There are no winners and losers in this case. There's a family who lost a loved one and a police officer who has to deal with that," Lynch added.
During an emotionally charged 30-minute hearing where Graham's father Franclot Graham also left the courtroom, Barrett said his ruling does not mean the case should not be represented to a grand jury.
"This is not a case where there is insufficient evidence," said Barrett.
Graham family attorneys and Lynch both said they expect the case to go before a grand jury again.
Graham family attorney Royce Russell, standing outside the courthouse with a tearful Franclot Graham, said the family was "disappointed but not surprised" and fully expected Haste to be re-indicted.
"The people of Bronx County will speak again," said Russell.
The Rev. Al Sharpton issued a statement calling the judge's decision "an outrageous miscarriage of justice" and demanded that another grand jury be convened.
The Bronx D.A.'s office said it will wait for Barrett's written decision before deciding whether to appeal the decision or represent the indictment.
"It cannot be said more forcefully that we disagree with the court," said Melvin Hernandez, a spokesman for the Bronx D.A.'s office.