BEAUMONT — James Cody Guedry gave no outward reaction Friday as a Jefferson County jury found the Beaumont police officer guilty of official oppression in connection with twice using a Taser against Derrick Newman on the night of Aug. 24, 2007.
State District Judge John B. Stevens Jr. of the Criminal District Court announced that he would pronounce sentencing on Jan. 10 following a presentencing investigation. Guedry faces up to one year in county jail and a maximum $4,000 fine for the Class A misdemeanor. The conviction also puts his peace officer’s certification at risk.
He could also receive probation, as did former officer David Todd Burke, who was convicted by a Bexar County jury in September of the same offense for using his police baton to strike Newman 13 times in the same incident. [For more background on the case and a link to a police video of the incident, click here.]
The jury — comprised of two white men, two white women, one black man and one black woman — each affirmed the verdict when Mitch Adams, Guedry’s lead defense attorney, asked for them to be polled. They had deliberated about eight and a half hours.
In finding Guedry guilty, they rejected his testimony that while he searched Newman for weapons following a traffic stop, the other man grabbed his wrist and pulled it toward his crotch. Newman testified that he never grabbed Guedry’s hand or did anything else that warranted his being struck and shocked with a Taser.
While Guedry, 28, remained stoic during the verdict, there were audible gasps from some of his supporters who packed one side of the courtroom, and his girlfriend wept openly. Newman, who was also in the courtroom, gave a brief gesture of victory at the announcement.
Guedry’s supporters, most of whom were fellow Beaumont police officers, showed disbelief and shock at the verdict, as many of them had at Burke’s conviction in September. (Burke, who has since resigned, is appealing the conviction.) They filed out of the courtroom without comment. Guedry himself slipped through a secure exit to avoid reporters and leave the courthouse.
Newman told reporters afterward that he was satisfied with the verdict, but that “it’s a sad day for both parties.” He praised the jurors. Another Jefferson County jury failed to reach a verdict in Burke’s first trial in April.
Newman said he hoped the verdict would help “bring about a change” in the behavior of the Beaumont Police Department. During the trial, prosecutors said the department regularly treated residents in designated “zero tolerance” high-crime areas differently than in other parts of the city.
“The jury has spoken. That’s the way the system is supposed to work,” Newman said.
Reached later by phone, Adams said he and his client were “very disappointed” in the jury’s verdict and would appeal it.
Assistant Criminal District Attorney Ed Shettle, the lead prosecutor on the case, declined to comment until after the sentencing.
By coincidence, in a Jefferson County civil court just down the hall, state District Judge Donald Floyd held a hearing Friday morning on a motion for summary judgment in a civil lawsuit brought by Newman against Burke, Guedry and three other officers involved in the same incident — Jason Torres, John Brown and Chalres Duchamp III. Newman is suing the five in their individual capacities for unspecified monetary damages.
Craig Schexanider, the attorney for the officers, argued to Floyd that they were entitled to official immunity from civil damages because a “reasonably prudent” officer would have used the same actions considering the totality of the situation on that night. [Read about Schexnaider’s participation in Guedry’s criminal trial here and how that impacted a later ruling by state district Judge John B. Stevens Jr. here.]
Langston Adams, Newman’s civil attorney, countered that Floyd had to consider Newman’s version of the events as true on their face unless Schexnaider could supply credible evidence that would overcome that standard, which he argued Schexnaider had not.
A few hours later, Floyd issued a written order denying summary judgment for each of the five officers. The case is slated for trial in January.
UPDATES: Guedry’s sentencing date, originally set for Jan. 10, was reset to Jan. 12 because his attorney, Mitch Adams, was representing a former Jefferson County corrections officer in a federal civil rights civil lawsuit in the court of U.S. District Judge Marcia Crone.
On Jan. 18 (when the sentencing was again reset), Stevens sentenced Guedry to 30 days in state jail, probated for 90 days. 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. Stevens held a hearing on the motion March 31, and issued a ruling April 1 granting Guedry a new trial. Jefferson County prosecutors appealled the ruling, and Guedry was reinstated on the Beaumont police force, as a community services officer, pending the outcome of the case. On Sept. 5, 2012, the Ninth Court of Appeals in Beaumont upheld Stevens’ ruling granting Guedry a new trial.
On Oct. 10, 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. After denying the petition on Jan. 16, 2013, the court on Feb. 14, on its own motion, returned the case to the Ninth Court of Appeals in Beaumont. On Feb. 26, the Ninth Court issued a mandate in the appeal, returning to the Criminal District Court of Jefferson County.
On the final two days of 2014, after Newman signed an affidavit stating he did not want to continue with the criminal complaints, Jefferson County prosecutors dismissed the official oppression charges against Burke and Guedry. As part of his agreement with prosecutors, Burke stipulated that he would not seek employment as a peace officer in Texas for ten years.
On Dec. 8, 2010 attorneys for the officers removed the civil lawsuit to a Beaumont federal court. On Dec. 17, they filed a notice of appeal of Floyd’s decision with Texas’ Ninth Court of Appeals. On Jan. 3, Langston Adams, Newman’s civil attorney, filed an amended petition adding the City of Beaumont, Police Chief Frank Coffin and City Manager Kyle Hayes as defendants. On Jan. 6, the Ninth Court issued an order stating that since the case had been removed to federal court, the state appeals court would abate the case and consider it closed unless it was reinstated to state court.
On May 4, U.S. District Judge Ron Clark granted a motion to dismiss Newman’s claims against the city, Coffin and Hayes on the grounds that Newman (and his attorney, Langston Adams) had waited beyond the two-year statute of limitations to file those claims. Adams appealed that decision to the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, which heard oral arguments on Feb. 7, 2011.
On Sept. 23, Clark granted summary judgment to three of the five officer named in the suit — Jason Torres, John Brown and Charles Duchamp. He denied summary judgment to Burke and Guedry, who are appealed the ruling to the Fifth Circuit Court. Clark indefinitely postponed the case’s trial setting, pending the resolution of the appeal.
After hearing oral arguments in October 2012, a three-judge panel of the Fifth Circuit, in a 2-1 decision issued on Dec. 21, denied the Burke and Guedry’s appeal. On Jan. 4, 2013, the officers’ attorneys filed a motion for rehearing en banc of the decision by the Fifth Circuit Court.
Find links to full coverage of the Guedry and Burke trials here.
Copyright © 2010 Ken Fountain. All rights reserved.