Former Louisville police detective McKenzie Mattingly, 31, was acquitted of murder charges in the January 3rd killing of black Louisville teenager Michael Newby. Working an undercover drug buy operation, Mattingly shot Newby, 19, three times in the back as Newby attempted to flee after the pair scuffled.
Newby was the seventh black man killed by police since 1998, and protests over his death led to violent clashes between police and demonstrators five days after he was shot. Detective Mattingly became the first police officer charged in any of those killings. Louisville Police Chief Robert White also fired Mattingly from the force, charging that he had violated departmental policies in the killing.
During the trial, Mattingly testified that he feared for his life after he and Newby struggled over his service weapon and that he thought he had been shot. He hadn't. Witnesses agreed that Mattingly and Newby had scuffled and that Newby was trying to flee when he was shot. Newby was found to be carrying a pistol after he was shot, but according to police testimony, neither Mattingly nor his partner, Detective Matthew Thomerson, knew Newby was armed when Mattingly shot him. Thomerson testified that "at no point did I see a weapon or see him (Newby) make an aggressive movement other than when he was down on the ground and probably [sic] already been shot."
Louisville prosecutors undercut their own case by telling the jury during closing arguments that it should not find Mattingly guilty of murder, but instead convict him of a lesser charge, begging the question of why Commonwealth's Attorney David Stengel charged Mattingly with murder if he did not intend to seek a conviction. "I do not think that is what he is guilty of," assistant prosecutor Scott Davis told the jury.
After eight hours of deliberations, jurors returned with a partial verdict of not guilty on the murder charge and hopelessly deadlocked on a lesser charge of wanton endangerment. Prosecutors have not announced whether they will seek a retrial on that count.
Newby's shooting sparked weeks of protests in Louisville, many led by the Rev. Louis Coleman, a civil rights activist who has led protests over the killing of other black men by police in the city. "It's business as usual," Coleman told the Louiville Courier-Journal.
"The message is clear. The police can act with impunity," Newby friend Philip Bailey, a university student, told the newspaper after the verdict was announced.
"There are murderers out here," said Newby's stepfather, Jerry Bouggess, as he left the courthouse.
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