Dante Servin, the first Chicago cop to face criminal charges for shooting and killing another person in 15 years, was acquitted Monday of all charges in the slaying of Rekia Boyd, a 22-year-old innocent bystander who was racing for cover from a barrage of shots fired by the off-duty Servin over his shoulder while the Chicago detective sat in his car.
But while incidents of police officers killing unarmed citizens then getting off free, often with no charges at all, have become all-too-familiar in recent months, the reasons given by Cook County Judge Dennis Porter for letting Servin walk are being called “incredible” by legal experts — who say that though the judge prefaced his decision by declaring, “this is a court of law, not a court of emotion,” his legal reasoning was tortured at best.
The judge handed down a “directed verdict” in the Servin trial Monday, meaning the the cop’s defense lawyers never even needed to present their case, and a jury never issued its own decision. Instead, the judge found that the law — in his view — did not support a guilty verdict no matter what the defense might have presented.
His reasoning? Basically, Judge Porter said that Servin should have been charged with first or second degree murder. Instead, prosecutors charged him only with manslaughter and with recklessly discharging his firearm.
Because the judge found that Servin was probably guilty of the greater crime rather then the less serious one, he could not be convicted of anything at all.
When the judge announced his decision, Monday, the courtoom erupted into cries of protest from family members and friends of Rekia Boyd.
The charges stemmed from a March 21, 2012, incident when Servin, who was off-duty, claimed that a group of young people, which included Boyd, were making too much noise as they walked through an alley to a store past his home.
Servin got into an altercation with Boyd’s boyfriend, Antonio Cross, and later claimed that he saw Cross reach for a gun. But police never found a weapon and Cross, who was struck in the hand by another of Servin’s bullets, maintained that he had nothing but a cell phone.
But Servin fired at least five times over his shoulder from inside his car. One of the rounds struck Rekia Boyd in the back of her head as she ran away, killing her.
“I am Rekia Boyd’s mom. They just found this man not guilty on all counts, and he blew my daughter’s brains out in the alley,” said Angela Helton to the assembled media after the directed verdict.
J. Steven Beckett, trial law expert at the University of Illinois, called the judge’s reasoning “incredible.”
“When a motion for directed verdict is made by the defense, the evidence must be considered in the light most favorable to the prosecution,” Beckett told the Think Progress site. “What the judge did here appears to be just the opposite!”
Another law professor at the university, Marareth Etienne, was equally puzzled, saying that the judge’s decision in the Dante Servin killing of Rekia Boyd, “really doesn’t make any sense at all.”