Breaking: Jackson Shooter Arraigned

Former detective pleads not guilty; trial date is set

Charles Kleinert
Charles Kleinert

After months of delays, former detective Charles Kleinert appeared in Travis County court today to enter a formal plea of not guilty to a charge of manslaughter. Kleinert is charged in connection with the July 2013 death of Larry Jackson Jr.

Judge David Wahlberg read the indictment to Kleinert, which charges him with "recklessly causing the death" of Jackson by striking him with his hand while holding a loaded gun, causing his gun to discharge and kill Jackson. Kleinert faces the possibility of between two and 20 years in jail for the crime. After Kleinert entered a plea of not guilty, Judge Wahlberg set the trial date for April 20, 2015.

Present in the courtroom were Jackson's parents, Billie and Larry Mercer, and their attorney Adam Loewy, as well as outgoing Austin Police Association President Wayne Vincent and incoming President Ken Casaday.

Loewy said that today is "a historic day." Unlike more recent, national cases involving police officers who killed unarmed black men, Kleinert's case did result in an indictment, something Loewy credited to the efforts of Travis County D.A. Rosemary Lehmberg. Loewy went on to say that "we don't believe there will be a plea." Because the trial date is preferential, Loewy explained, the trial will take place in April, barring a plea deal.

Jackson's mother, wearing an oxygen tank, said that "God answers prayers ... I can't get my son back, but I can send [Kleinert] to jail." She told assembled reporters that she is hoping for the maximum sentence of 20 years. "I want to see justice in the court system. There's no such thing as closure. I still won't have my son."

Loewy added that, having seen the evidence while pursuing the Mercers' civil suit, he believes "this was murder 100 percent. It's horrific what happened." He also took the opportunity to criticize the current City Council for what he called their "abysmal record on civil rights," and to stump for mayoral candidate Steve Adler.

Later, Larry Mercer said that he thought APD officers, as well as other members of law enforcement, need more training in order to prevent more deaths like his son's. "They don't seem to have regard for minority lives," he said. "They react in such a hostile way and they presume them guilty."

A rally for Jackson's supporters will take place tonight, 7pm, in front of the Travis County Courthouse Complex. For more information, visit the Facebook event page.

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