OUTRAGEOUS MISCARRIAGE OF JUSTICE IN STAND YOUR GROUND DISMSSAL OF HOMICIDE CASE AGAINST BROWARD COUNTY, FL DEPUTY SHERIFF WHO KILLED AFRICAN-AMERICAN IT ENGINEER JERMAINE MCBEAN IN COLD BLOOD.
On July 27, 2016, Broward County Circuit Court Judge Michael Usan issued an order dismissing first degree felony manslaughter with a firearm charges against Broward County Deputy Sheriff Peter Peraza based on the deputy’s invocation of Florida’s Stand Your Ground law. Peraza killed a beloved African-American IT engineer, Jermaine McBean, 33, as Mr. McBean was steps from his home, where he was going with the new unloaded airgun he had just bought.
In doing so, the judge disregarded detailed eyewitness testimony from courageous civilians at the scene when Peraza killed. Instead, the judge demeaned the witnesses who had no agenda and who came forward because they wanted to do the right thing in the face of grave injustice. With this decision, this judge discourages anyone from every doing that again.
The judge refused to apply a Florida appellate decision holding that Florida’s Stand Your Ground law is not intended to cover a deputy who claims he was authorized to use force as a law enforcement officer.
The judge ignored the fact that a grand jury made up of Broward County citizens heard from each of the deputies involved for as long as the deputy wanted to tell his story and then heard from the other eyewitnesses and clearly rejected the deputies irreconcilable stories as not credible, returning an indictment against Peraza for the first degree felony of manslaughter with a firearm – the first indictment returned against a law enforcement officer in Broward County in over 170 cases in which an officer has killed a civilian.
The judge omitted key material facts from his rendition of the facts, keeping the true facts from the public and from a jury. His order misleads as to other facts and in so many ways is intellectually dishonest. Some indisputable facts are the following:
· For 2 years after Peraza killed Jermaine McBean, neither of the two supervisory deputies on the scene ever said in their sworn statements that Jermaine McBean pointed the unloaded airgun at anyone. Their stories changed once a federal civil rights lawsuit was filed and the Department of Justice began investigating.
· Their new stories were completely inconsistent with their earlier stories and completely inconsistent with Peraza’s. For example, Sgt. Lacerra changed his story from saying at the scene that he thought Jermaine might point the gun at them when he heard Peraza shoot, to saying that Jermaine pointed it at him (Lacerra) when Peraza shot. Peraza, on the other hand, claimed that Jermaine pointed it at him (Peraza), all the way in a different direction. This was 100% contradicted by the forensic evidence, which proved he could not have been facing Peraza when Peraza killed him. Each supervisor’s lie was exposed on videotape when, though purportedly focused on the airgun, each gave a different rendition of the way the airgun was facing, whether Jermaine was right or left-handed and each claimed Jermaine was pointing the gun in the exact opposite direction from what the other claimed. The only witnesses the judge relied on for the facts were 4 Broward deputies on the scene. Of these, one fell on his face getting out of his car and gave a rendition that was at odds with every other deputy. Of the 3 others, their stories cannot be reconciled with each other in any way.
· The judge maligned the most courageous civilian witness who called 911 and stayed at the scene and saw all that happened. He ignored the fact that this eyewitness told the investigators at the scene immediately after he saw Peraza kill Jermaine that Jermaine never lifted the unloaded airgun from behind his head and never pointed it at anyone. This witness has said this on every single occasion since that day without exception.
· The court ignored two other civilian eyewitnesses who said that Jermaine never pointed the airgun at anyone and was just minding his own business just steps from his home.
· The court’s decision concerning Jermaine’s mental health should be offensive to every American. Jermaine suffered from bipolar disorder. That does not give the police a license to kill. Jermaine functioned every day as a high level IT engineer for a major firm. He interacted beautifully with others the day he was killed and had just had his medication regulated. Some 51 million people around the world suffer from bipolar disease. Jermaine was beloved by all who knew him. The deputies watched him walk down the street, pass others without incident, as he walked to his home. He wanted nothing but to walk home with his new airgun and never threatened anyone. The judge relied on so-called “expert” testimony based on their inadmissible third hand hearsay interpretation of records they read, without even consulting the people involved.
· Neither of the experienced supervisors on the scene fired a shot, despite the fact that by their versions Jermaine would have pointed the airgun at them first. They told completely incredible stories to try to explain why they did not shoot, but Peraza, new to the street shot and killed Jermaine.
· The judge inexplicably omitted many, many more of the most relevant facts and unfairly mischaracterized others. For example, after he was shot, Jermaine looked at the deputy and, not only asked “why?” but also said “it was just a b.b. gun.” The judge ignored the first and found the latter to indicate that he must have known he posed a threat. That is a disgrace.
· At a time when distrust between citizen and law enforcement runs so high, this judge robbed the McBean family and the public of justice by refusing to let this case and all relevant facts go before a jury. He ignored every effort by the victim’s family to participate in the proceedings, despite Florida law giving them standing to do so.
· This case was presented to the grand jury by the Broward State Attorney and the grand jury returned an indictment because of the lies the deputies told and the coverup that followed the homicide of Jermaine McBean. When the true facts come out, exposing just what an injustice this judge worked with today’s disingenuous decision, people of conscience will be outraged.
Lawlessness breeds lawlessness. It should surprise no one if the public reaction to this travesty of a decision is long and loud. This is the kind of inconceivable action that leads so many of our citizens to feel the need to cry “Black Lives Matter.” This decision will only increase that cry and that is most understandable. It is this kind of injustice that provides the raison d’etre for this movement and this kind of decision should make it every caring American’s movement.
This judge has brought great shame to our system of justice and has badly undermined the hope for healing and inculcating the view that we all have a stake in the system. With this decision, this judge adds fuel to the fire and gives voice to those who feel disenfranchised because of their race and because the perpetrator was a law enforcement officer.