Background of Beaumont PD/Derrick Newman incident

NOTE:  The original version of this post was published on the eve of Officer David Todd Burke’s second trial in San Antonio in September 2010. It was later revised to reflect the trial of Officer James Cody Guedry, which began with jury selection Nov. 29, 2010. It continues to be revised to reflect the ongoing court proceedings.

This YouTube video, taken from a patrol car dashboard camera, depicts the Aug. 24, 2007 events leading to the federal civil rights violations lawsuit of Derrick Newman against Beaumont police officer James Cody Guedry and retired officer David Todd Burke.

Guedry and Burke were among several officers who responded to a call for backup following a traffic stop of a car driven by Willie Cole. Derrick Newman was the front-seat passenger and Cole’s brother, Mario, was the back-seat passenger.

James Cody Guedry,jpegAfter an initial altercation between officers and Mario Cole, who had an outstanding traffic warrant, Guedry, then a rookie officer only a few months on the force, was attempting to pat down Newman when a struggle ensued between them. (Guedry claims that Newman grabbed his hand and attempted to pull it toward Newman’s crotch, making a course statement. Newman has denied grabbing Guedry’s hand, but has admitted he may have made a course remark.)

David Todd BurkeOfficer David Todd Burke, a veteran officer who had just arrived on the scene, can be seen using his police baton to strike Newman 13 times while Newman’s hands were placed on the car’s trunk lid. Ordered to do so by another officer, Guedry used his Taser twice against Newman before the struggle ended. Police charged Newman with resisting search, but that charge was later dropped.

A year after the incident, Newman filed a civil lawsuit against Guedry, Burke and three other officers who were on the scene in a Jefferson County court. A judge initially granted Newman a default judgment but later rescinded it. In the course of the litigation, however, it became publicly known that videos existed of the incident, including Guedry’s and Burke’s actions. Jefferson County prosecutors obtained copes of the videos, and later released them to media outlets in response to open records requests.

Prosecutors presented the case to a Jefferson County grand jury, which indicted Burke, 44, and Guedry, 28, on a single count each of official oppression, a Class A misdemeanor, in August 2009.

Burke’s first, weeklong trial in April 2010 ended in a hung jury, after which 252nd District Judge Layne Walker ordered a change of venue to Bexar County (San Antonio).

Following two-and-a-half days of testimony in September 2010, a six-person jury deliberated just over an hour before finding Burke guilty. Walker imposed a probated sentence of 90 days confinement in county jail (suspended), with a one-year probation, a $350 fine and 80 hours of community service. Burke, since resigned, appealed to the Ninth Court of Appeals, which in August 2011 upheld his conviction. Burke appealed the ruling at the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, which heard oral arguments in the case in March 2012. That June, the appeals court ruled that because Walker failed to grant a defense motion to strike for cause a potential juror who had expressed doubts about being impartial, Burke should receive a new trial. The case remains pending.

In December 2010, a Jefferson County jury convicted Guedry of official oppression. The next month, Criminal District Judge John B. Stevens Jr. sentenced Guedry to 30 days in state jail, probated for 90 days. His attorney, Mitch Adams of the Combined Law Enforcement Associations of Texas, said they would appeal the conviction.

Later, Guedry hired a new attorney, Glen Morgan, who filed a motion for a new trial, claiming that Adams had a conflict of interest and provided ineffective counsel during Guedry’s trial.

After holding a hearing on the motion, Stevens in April 2011 issued a ruling granting Guedry a new trial.

Jefferson County prosecutors appealed the ruling to the Ninth Court, and Guedry was reinstated on the Beaumont police force, as a community services officer, pending the outcome of the case.  In September 2012, the Ninth Court upheld Stevens’ ruling granting Guedry a new trial.

Later, the Jefferson County Criminal District Attorney’s Office filed a petition for discretionary review of the Ninth Court ruling with the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, which in January 2013 denied the petition and ultimately returned Guedry’s case to the trial court, where it remains pending.

Meanwhile, the civil rights lawsuit filed by Newman against Burke, Guedry and three other officers has continued to wind its way through the courts.

After defense attorneys removed the case from state district court to federal court, Newman’s attorney, Langston Adams (no relation to Mitch Adams), added the city of Beaumont, then-Police Chief Frank Coffin and City Manager Kyle Hayes as defendants. In May 2011, U.S. District Judge Ron Clark dismissed the claims against them based on the fact that Newman and Adams had waited beyond the two-year statute of limitations to file those claims.

Newman appealed the ruling at the Fifth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, where a three-judge panel heard oral arguments in February 2012. That March, the panel affirmed Judge Clark’s ruling dismissing the city from the lawsuit.

In September 2011, Clark granted summary judgment to three of the five officer named in the suit — Jason Torres, John Brown and Charles Duchamp. In the same ruling, he denied summary judgment to Burke and Guedry, who later appealed the decision to the Fifth Circuit.

Langston Adams, Newman’s attorney, filed a notice of cross-appeal of the portion of Clark’s ruling granting summary judgment to officers Torres, Brown and Duchamp. In March 2012, a separate three-judge panel dismissed Newman’s appeal of Clark’s granting of summary judgment to the three officers+.

In October 2012, another three-judge Fifth Circuit panel heard oral arguments in Burke and Guedry’s appeal of Clark’s ruling denying them summary judgment. That December, in a 2-1 decision, the panel denied the officers’ appeal. In January 2013, the officers’ attorneys filed a motion for rehearing en banc of the decision by the Fifth Circuit Court. That March, the court denied the motion for rehearing en banc, returning the case to the court of U.S. District Judge Ron Clark for trial. Clark later set a trial date of June 10, 2013.

On May 9, attorney Craig Schexnaider filed a notice with the district court stating Burke and Guedry’s intent to file a writ of certiorari appealing the Fifth Circuit denial of a rehearing to the U.S. Supreme Court. On May 13, Judge Clark cancelled the trial date pending the resolution of the writ to the high court. On October 7, the nation’s highest court denied the officers’ writ, sending the case back to Clark’s court.

Testimony in the trial began on January 30, 2014, more than six years after the original incident. On February 1, the five-man, four-woman jury found that Guedry did not violate Newman’s rights but that Burke did. They awarded Newman just over $40,000 in compensatory and punitive damages. Burke said he would appeal.

Find links to full coverage of the criminal and civil cases here.

Copyright © 2010-2014 Ken Fountain. All rights reserved.

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