Prosecutors drop charges against former officer

Saturday, February 7, 2004

LOS ANGELES -- After two trials that ended in hung juries, county prosecutors dropped brutality charges Friday against a former police officer who was videotaped slamming a handcuffed teenager onto a patrol car. In response, the U.S. attorney's office said it would investigate the July 6, 2002, incident and decide whether federal charges should be filed against Jeremy Morse, 26. Los Angeles County prosecutors said they did not believe they could get a unanimous verdict in a third trial for the former Inglewood officer. Superior Court Judge William Hollingsworth Jr. agreed. Morse, who is white, was seen on the tape slamming a black teen, Donovan Jackson, onto the trunk of a police car and punching him in the face at a gas station in 2002.

The videotape was shot by a bystander. Although race was never mentioned in the trials, the image of a white officer roughing up a black youth touched off angry protests in Inglewood.

Morse was later fired. It was not immediately known whether he would seek reinstatement.

Morse's attorney, John Barnett, said the key to the case was testimony from various law enforcement officials that the use of force was justified.

"All of those people spoke with one voice and said the actions were appropriate," Barnett said. "My client is relieved, as am I, that there won't be further prosecution."

The confrontation occurred after Jackson's father was pulled over by Los Angeles County sheriff's deputies for driving a car with expired tags.

Jackson's family said the teenager, then 16, may have responded slowly to officers' orders because he has a learning disability.

Morse's attorney argued that his client had to make a quick decision about how much force was needed to subdue a suspect who had already fought with other officers.

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