ALBUQUERQUE (KRQE) – Thursday, it was all about the defense in the preliminary hearing for two Albuquerque Police officers charged with killing a homeless camper.
Attorneys went back and forth about the credibility of witnesses asked to testify.
The defense brought in a man with a lengthy history of training officers for situations like the James Boyd encounter. However, special prosecutors for the state pointed out he’s also got a lengthy history of testifying in court for police.
For nearly five hours, a judge heard testimony from Ronald McCarthy, an expert witness on police SWAT training tactics, brought in by the defense.
“What they were doing was reasonable,” McCarthy explained, referring to police negotiation tactics with Boyd in the hours before the shooting.
It comes down to convincing a judge. District Court Judge Neil Candelaria will decide if officer Dominque Perez and retired-detective Keith Sandy will go to trial on charges for killing homeless camper James Boyd last year.
McCarthy is former LAPD, with a long history of training police for dangerous situations. He testified about SWAT techniques, and said Boyd never surrendered.
“He did not exhibit those actions that police officers are trained to recognize would indicate surrender,” McCarthy said.
McCarthy said Albuquerque officers followed training techniques when they attempted to negotiate with Boyd. He also said less lethal tactics they attempted, such as the flash bang, taser shotgun, and K-9, did not work.
“My opinion is that it was appropriate for Officer Perez to use deadly force,” McCarthy told the court.
“Do you see anything that Keith Sandy has done which is not consistent with a reasonably trained and experienced officer?” Sam Bregman, Attorney for Keith Sandy, asked McCarthy.
“I did not, sir,” he answered. McCarthy said Boyd still posed a threat with the two knives.
However, special prosecutors for the state argue Boyd was surrendering and attempted to turn toward the ground when he was shot by police.
“It would be unacceptable to use deadly force on a person who is surrendering and not a threat?” Kevin Holmes, Special Prosecutor for the state, asked McCarthy.
“That’s correct,” he said.
The state also pointed out McCarthy is often paid to testify in court for police.
“You average around $60,000 to $70,000 thousand dollars a year as an expert witness, correct?” Holmes asked. “Yes sir,” McCarthy said.
“And you told us that about 99 percent of the time you testify for the police officer in a case, don’t you?” Holmes said. “Yes sir,” McCarthy answered.
The defense maintains it’s important for the judge to hear from experts like McCarthy, to understand why officers shot Boyd after the hours long standoff and attempts to get him to surrender.
However, the next witness for the defense didn’t get a chance to testify yet.
“I think he’s not qualified,” Special Prosecutor, Randi McGinn said, as she asked the judge to exclude testimony from Dr. William Lewinski.
The state has problems with the credibility of a man critics claim too often sides with police in court cases. Lewinski spent the rest of the day going over his qualifications.
Lewinski will be on the stand Friday morning when the hearing resumes at 8:30 a.m. It’s unclear at this point whether the judge will allow his testimony.
It appears this preliminary hearing will likely go longer than one week.
Earlier in the day, the court heard from the neighbor that called 911 on James Boyd for illegally camping in the foothills. Alexander Thickstun said he’d seen Boyd near his house before, and was afraid of him.
The state asked Thickstun why he didn’t call the city’s 311 line to try and offer help to Boyd.
“I feared for my safety so I did not want to just call 311 to donate something to him,” Thickstun said. “I don’t want that around my family; I don’t want that around my house.”