In the roughly 20 minutes that followed, a series of events transpired that would ultimately exacerbate racial tensions in the Beaumont community and expose rifts in the law enforcement community in Jefferson County.
The incident also led to the indictments of two of the officers involved — one a veteran who at the time had 14 years of service with the department, another a rookie only on the force for a few months — for official oppression, or intentionally subjecting another person to mistreatment or arrest while knowing their actions were illegal.
The first trial of David Todd Burke, the veteran officer, took place in Jefferson County in April. Burke, 44, is specifically accused of wrongfully using his police baton 13 time against Newman, who was being patted down by the rookie, James Cody Guedry. The entire scene, while somewhat obscured, was recorded by a video camera mounted on the dashboard of a patrol car. (For more background on the case, including a link to a YouTube video of the event, click here.)
After nearly a week of emotionally wrenching testimony in a charged courtroom and more than six hours of deliberations, the six-person jury failed to reach a verdict. Reportedly, five of the jurors believed Burke to be guilty of the Class A misdemeanor, while one held out for his innocence.
Weeks later, 252nd District Judge Layne Walker ordered that the case would be retried in a different county. Jefferson County prosecutors first opposed any move, then asked Walker to hold the retrial in one of four other counties — Galveston, Dallas, Smith or Angelina.
Instead, Walker ordered that the case would be retried in Bexar County. And so it is that today, in the 290th District Court in downtown San Antonio, prosecutors and father-and-son defense attorneys Joseph and Zack Hawthorn will pick six people, most of whom likely will have no prior knowledge of the case, to decide Burke’s fate.
Testimony is set to begin Tuesday morning. If convicted, he could be subject to up to a year in jail and up to a $4,000 fine. (He has requested consideration for community supervision if convicted). He could also lose his peace officer’s certification.
Find links to full coverage of the trial here.
Copyright © 2010 Ken Fountain. All rights reserved.