A Black man was on Thursday acquitted of murdering his cousin even though the victim was killed by police in Georgia in a case that defense lawyers characterized as an “overreaching prosecution.”
Varshan Brown was found not guilty of killing Latoya James, who was shot to death during a botched police raid in Camden County more than two years ago. James was killed while sleeping on the couch in Brown’s home on May 4, 2021, when deputies serving a search warrant for drugs in the early morning hours used a battering ram to knock down Brown’s door and opened fire.
First Coast News reported that Brown returned fire, which prosecutors blamed for causing James’ death – a premise the jury obviously disagreed with.
Jurors did find Brown guilty of possession with intent to distribute and aggravated assault on a public safety officer, but lawyers said they plan to appeal those convictions.
Lawyers for James’ family, including civil rights attorneys Harry Daniels and Bakari Sellers, welcomed the jury’s verdict on Thursday.
“Today the jury made it absolutely clear that Varshan Brown is not responsible for Latoya James death and there was only one other group shooting. Furthermore, we are confident that the other convictions and this draconian sentence will be overturned on appeal,” the lawyers said in a statement emailed to NewsOne. “The simple fact is that the Camden County Sheriff’s Department gunned Latoya James down in cold blood and they’ve been doing everything they could since to distract people from that fact. This overreaching prosecution was their last chance and there’s nowhere else to turn.”
They added: “How many more people have to be beaten or killed by the Camden County Sheriff’s Department? We say no more and the people are with us.”
The verdict came amid a $25 million lawsuit filed by James’ family claiming in part that the Camden County police executed its warrant without knocking on Brown’s door “loud enough to be heard” and suggested it was not “followed by a pause long enough for someone to answer or come to the door.”
Bodycam video footage released two years ago shows officers entering quickly after a quick knock on the door.
The video below is graphic and should be viewed with discretion.
The case in Georgia bore a number of similarities to the botched no-knock warrant that led to the police shooting death of Breonna Taylor in 2020 in Louisville, Kentucky. In that case, police kicked in the apartment door while Taylor and her boyfriend were asleep in a bedroom. Taylor’s boyfriend, Kenneth Walker, retrieved his legally owned gun and shot at the front door, suspecting burglars, which prompted a reckless hail of police bullets that ended up killing Taylor. Walker was initially charged with attempted murder of a police officer and first-degree assault because he shot a cop in the leg, but prosecutors ultimately dropped those charges because he was acting within the limits of the law in self-defense.
This is America.
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