Murder Charges for Bronx Police Sergeant May Highlight New Prosecution Trend
By now, most New York citizens have heard about the New York City police sergeant (Hugh Barry) who fatally shot an older, mentally ill woman (Deborah Danner) in her Bronx apartment last October. Following his arrest and months of investigation into the incident, on May 31st, Barry was charged with murder in connection with Danner’s death, a verdict that is rarely the case when it comes to police officers, who are rarely charged with crimes at all—much less murder—when they use lethal force against citizens.
Barry was specifically charged with second-degree murder, first- and second-degree manslaughter, and criminally negligent homicide in connection with 66-year-old Deborah Danner’s death.
Reportedly, Barry and other officers were initially responding to a 911 call concerning a “woman acting erratically.” While Barry claimed that his actions were justified because Danner swung a bat at him, others—including the police commissioner and Mayor Bill de Blasio—agreed that Barry had failed to follow police protocol in dealing with a mentally ill individual, which requires that you initially use a stun gun to subdue them versus lethal force, even if you are threatened by the individual.
District Attorney’s Actions Significant
In this case, although the Bronx district attorney asked the state to appoint a special grand jury to hear evidence in the case, the state attorney general declined this option, instead suggesting that evidence confirmed that Danner was armed when she was killed. As a result, the district attorney herself took over the entire investigation and sought a grand jury, turning the case into one of the highest-profile prosecutions the office has undertaken. It was ultimately the grand jury which issued the charges.
In response, the Sergeants Benevolent Association has made statements that the grand jury pool was tainted even before any investigation proceeded, and as a result, Barry was denied due process.
Prosecuting Officers for Murder
There has been a pattern of prosecutors pursuing criminal cases against officers who killed unarmed people over the last five years, although those cases are notably difficult to prosecute due to the high level of deference given to police in using lethal force in the line of duty. Typically, the legal system gives police the benefit of the doubt—even if it doesn’t do the same for your average citizen. The result has outraged many victims’ families and shed light on serious civil rights issues in our society today.
New York Criminal Defense Attorney
If you’ve been the victim of a civil rights violation, it is important that you start to build an effective defense and protect your rights as soon as possible.
An experienced criminal defense attorney like Phillip J. Murphy, who has been providing legal representation to New York citizens for over 25 years, can help. Contact us today for a free consultation.