Defense claims racism in Durham officer's shooting trial
Posted August 6, 2015
Durham, N.C. — The defense was repeatedly rebuffed Thursday as it attempted to get a mistrial declared in the case of a man accused of shooting a Durham police officer three years ago.
Officer Kelly Stewart was shot in the thigh during a confrontation with Carlos Riley Jr. following a December 2012 traffic stop. Riley claims Stewart shot himself during a struggle, and defense attorney Alex Charns accused prosecutors of withholding evidence, including a worker's compensation claim filed by Stewart.
Charns said the claim could include critical information for Riley's defense, such as statements Stewart made after he was shot, and he criticized prosecutors for not even knowing a claim was filed.
"There's the gentleman right here, the officer. She can ask him. They have a bevy of investigators," Charns told Superior Court Judge James Roberson, adding that his resources were limited by comparison. "There's just me. I've got a pen."
Roberson agreed that the defense should have access to Stewart's worker's comp claim and ordered prosecutors to track it down and hand over a copy. But he said there was nothing malicious in the prosecution's actions and denied Charns' motion for a mistrial.
A series of defense motions Thursday morning stalled the case, preventing prosecution witnesses from taking the stand until mid-afternoon.
Charns also alleged racial and ethnic bias in the case, saying he and Riley are being treated differently because he is Polish and Riley is black.
"The issue of race and not being able to afford a lawyer has infected this case," he told Roberson. "Something isn't right here."
In addition to accusing prosecutors of dragging their feet in turning over evidence, he said they prevented Riley from getting a speedy trial.
"They wouldn't do it to a white, rich defendant," he said.
Stewart also is black.
Durham County Assistant District Attorney Stormy Ellis dismissed Charns' accusations, calling the argument "just a little off."
Testimony is expected to continue Friday, and Ellis said prosecutors will likely finish their case on Monday.