Officer-Involved Shooting Case Goes to Court
Federal civil rights trial over death of Byron Carter begins today
By Jordan Smith,
1:18PM, Mon. Jun. 3, 2013
Jury selection turned emotional Monday morning in the federal civil rights case concerning the 2011 police shooting death of Byron Carter, Jr., after a juror stood to express empathy with Carter's family.
When asked by federal Judge Lee Yeakel if there were any issues that any of the 34 potential jurors called for duty in the case wanted to mention to the court before final selection, a female juror stood to say that the Carter family's story really "strikes a chord." Her son was shot and killed in 2000 during a hunting trip with a 15-year-old friend. To this day, she said, she isn't sure what happened to her son. "I really feel for this family," she said.
The words clearly struck Carter's mother, Felicia, who looked down where she sat at the plaintiff's table in the courtroom, tissue in hand, crying softly.
Indeed, Carter was also with a juvenile the night he was killed, May 30, 2011, by a handful of bullets fired by Austin Police Department Officer Nathan Wagner. Police have said that Carter and his friend Leyumba Webb were acting suspiciously while walking near some apartments just East of Downtown when Wagner and his partner, Jeffrey Rodriguez, noticed them. The cops followed Carter and Webb who eventually got into a car. Webb was preparing to drive away (Carter was his passenger) when the cops caught up to them. What happened next is a matter of dispute: Police say Webb pulled out from his East Eighth Street parking spot in a reckless way that put both Wagner and Rodriguez in jeopardy; indeed, Wagner reportedly believed the car had hit Rodriguez. According to Carter's family attorney, Adam Loewy, Carter and Webb had no idea they were being stalked by police and panicked when they were confronted by two strangers with guns drawn. Webb pulled away quickly, in order to get away; Carter was essentially an innocent bystander, he argues, killed by a spray of bullets actually meant for Webb.
Which version of the story is more likely true, and whether Wagner should be held responsible for Carter's death will be determined in federal court, with a jury of six men and two women, all white, who were selected just before 1p today. The trial is expected to last five days.