Manslaughter indictment dropped in Ramarley Graham case

The parents of Ramarley Graham, Constance Malcolm and Frank Graham, weep during the arraignment last June.
The parents of Ramarley Graham, Constance Malcolm and Frank Graham, weep during the arraignment last June.

Due to what defense attorneys and the judge characterized as a grammatical misstep by an assistant district attorney to a grand jury, the indictment against NYPD Officer Richard Haste, charged with the shooting death of Bronx teen Ramarley Graham, has been thrown out.

Haste was arraigned last year on manslaughter charges for fatally shooting the 18-year-old. Haste and other officers said they believed Graham had a gun in his waistband when they followed him home and into his apartment.

“It cannot be said more forcefully that we disagree with the court,” the statement read. “As we await the court’s written decision, we will begin the process of weighing which of the options—appeal of the decision or representation to the grand jury—better serve the people of the Bronx.”

Graham was reportedly flushing a small amount of marijuana down the toilet when cops burst in on him and shot him.

The NYPD at the time said that Haste was inadequately trained for the undercover street narcotics assignment he had just been posted to a few months prior.

Graham’s parents and community members gathered outside the Bronx Hall of Justice today to protest the decision.

In a statement, Graham’s father Frank said, “We will keep fighting no matter what. We will never stop until justice is service in this case, until Richard Haste goes to prison for murdering our son.”

The elder Graham noted the options of going back to the grand jury for a second try or taking the case to federal court.

The memo from the DA’s office decrying judge’s decision says that the crux of the issue is a claim of a semantical error — which they say cannot even legitimately be called an error.

The ADA reportedly advised the grand jury not to let their determination of Haste’s guilt — or lack thereof — rest on the “reasonableness” of the claims of the officers who told him they believed Graham had a gun, but rather on the “reasonableness” of Haste’s “conduct,” his decision to shoot Graham. Essentially, even if it seemed reasonable to believe that Graham had a gun, was shooting him in that moment — confronted at close range after bursting into his bathroom — reasonable in itself?

The memo from DA Robert Johnson noted that the ADA’s advice was actually not solely to the benefit of the prosecution.

“The danger existed that, had the Grand Jury found that the officers who made the erroneous communications to be incredible, there would be an adverse spillover effect on the defendant because he relied on misinformation, and that the Grand Jury might find him to be unjustified on this basis alone,” the memo read.

“It would indeed be ironic if an instruction designed to alleviate any prejudice to defendant arising from the testimony before the Grand Jury was read incorrectly to mean the opposite,” Johnson concluded.

 

Follow Danielle Tcholakian on Twitter @danielleiat


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