PALM BEACH GARDENS, Florida. Prosecutors will try to convince a judge to let them try a fired Florida police officer who fatally shot a stranded and legally armed black motorist, with the argument that he may not be covered by the state’s controversial “stand your ground” law.
She and Nouman Raja’s lawyers are scheduled to square off Wednesday and Thursday before Circuit Judge Samantha Schosberg Feuer, who will decide whether the former Palm Beach Gardens officer should face trial for the Oct. 18, 2015, the shooting of the 31-year-old Corey Jones. If the court allows the case to proceed, Raja, 40, is scheduled to go on trial in July of murder and attempt to murder charges and could face life in prison if convicted.
Florida’s law, which gained national prominence in 2012 after neighborhood watch captain George Zimmerman fatally shot black teenager Trayvon Martin, was rewritten by the Legislature last year to the burden of proof lies with the accuser. They must now convince a judge that a recording is shown unjustified before the case can be tried.
The law says that the people have no obligation to retreat if threatened and can use deadly force if they believe it necessary to prevent death or great bodily harm. However, it is not possible, an argument the instigator use of lethal force — and that is where the argument lies.
Raja’s lawyer, Richard Lubin, said that it was a “classic case of self-defense.”
“Officer Raja was confronted with a man who pointed a gun at him, and did what every citizen is entitled to do: defend themselves. No ordinary citizen would be prosecuted for the Officer of the Raja’s behavior,” Lubin wrote in court documents.
But the prosecutors say in court documents that Raja’s “careless act” was the beginning of the recording by causing Jones to a mistake of the officer for a robber and pulls his weapon.
Officers of justice refused an interview request. Lubin not return a call and e-mail seeking comment.
Jones, a housing inspector and a part-time drummer, he parked his broken down SUV on an Interstate 95 off-ramp when he returned home from his reggae band of the performance. Raja, working undercover to catch car burglars, saw the SUV and drove the wrong way in the off-ramp just before 3:15 pm
Raja got out of his unmarked white van and ran in the direction of Jones, who was on the phone with a tow truck dispatch center, which included the call. Jones’ family says that he had just purchased the gun because he was afraid that someone would steal his musical equipment.
Prosecutors say Raja was not wearing his tactical vest with police markings as ordered and has never been heard on the dispatch recording identify himself as police. Raja, who says he identified himself, was wearing jeans, a T-shirt, sneakers and a baseball cap with the logo of a heavy equipment manufacturer.
In the two uk recording, Raja, a seven-year-old police officer of South Asian descent who had joined Palm Beach Gardens six months earlier, shouts “You good?” when he comes. Jones says that he is. Raja twice to answer: “Really?” with Jones answers “yes”.
Suddenly, Raja shouts for Jones his hands up, using an expletive. Jones answers, “Hold on!” and Raja repeated his question. Raja then shoot three shots in less than two seconds. Ten seconds before three shots a second apart, apparently Raja shoot at Jones as he walked along a dike. Raja told investigators Jones kept pointing his gun at him; prosecutors say Raja saw him down, but kept shooting, that is the reason why he is accused of attempted murder. The researchers are not in a position to determine when the fatal shot was fired.
Raja then used his personal cell phone to call 911, the operator of the picking up of 33 seconds after the last shot was fired. Raja is recorded yelling orders to drop the gun; the prosecutors say that he is trying to mislead researchers to believe that he had not seen the gun being thrown. Jones’ body was found 200 feet (60 metres) of the SUV and 125 feet (38 meters) of his gun, which was unfired.
Palm Beach Gardens quickly dismissed Raja, which is still in the employee’s probation period. He was charged eight months later.
Kenneth Nunn, a University of Florida law professor who investigated the case, said it seems Raja’s “gross negligence” made “an unreasonable situation” and held after the firing of Jones threw his weapon, which he is not eligible for a stand your ground defense.
“You can’t be the first aggressor,” Nunn said.