DALLAS – A Texas jury gave a white former police officer too lenient of a punishment as sentencing him to 15 years for the shooting death of an unarmed black teenager in a car leaving a house party, the victim’s family members said.
Roy Oliver’s lap in the car filled with the teenagers the night of the April 2017 party in a suburb of Dallas, the killing of the 15-year-old Jordan Edwards.
“He can actually see life again after 15 years and that is not enough, because Jordan can’t see the life again,” Edwards’ stepmother, Charmaine Edwards, said Oliver, after he was convicted Wednesday night.
She praised the work of the prosecutors as the decision of the jury to convince Oliver murder on Tuesday. But they wanted the same jury to send Oliver to prison for a longer period of time.
Daryl Washington, an attorney for Edwards’ father, said the sentence could be longer, but still sends a message.
“We know that there are parents all over the country, who would like to see the person who is the life of their child, spend the next 15 years in prison,” Washington said.
The prosecutors had asked for a minimum of 60 years in prison.
The murder conviction was very rare for a shooting involving an on-duty officer. Oliver’s defense team said that it had already begun the process of appealing. His lawyers said he would be eligible for parole after 7 ½ years, but they also said that they were concerned about his safety in prison and that the authorities will take extra precautions to protect him.
Oliver was a police officer in the community of Balch Springs, when he and his partner responded to reports of underage drinking at the party. Oliver fired into a car, carrying Edwards and his friends, later said he feared the vehicle was moving in the direction of and in compromise of his partner. Edwards, who is in the front passenger seat, was shot.
The jury deliberated late into the night before settling on a sentence of imprisonment, which is also a $10,000 fine. Earlier, they learned of Oliver’s mother, Linda, who said that he was a good man and a dedicated father and asked jurors for a period of five year sentence, saying her young grandson needs his father’s support.
“He needs his father’s love. He needs his father’s income. He needs his father’s guidance,” she said.
Oliver’s wife also testified, saying in Spanish through an interpreter that she was worried about their 3-year-old son, who is autistic. But the ex-officer’s half-sister took the stand against him, saying that she felt compelled to do this after listening to testimony during the trial and that she hoped he gets what he deserves.”
Earlier Wednesday, Dallas County District Attorney Faith Johnson called Oliver a “killer in the blue” and told jurors they could send a message that bad officers will not be tolerated.
The police initially said the vehicle backed up toward officers “in an aggressive way,” but later admitted that the bodycam video showed the vehicle was moving forward as officers approached. Oliver’s partner told jurors he did not believe his life was ever in danger.
Investigators said no weapons were found in the vehicle. Oliver was fired from the Balch Springs Police days after the shooting.
The jury, which was furnished with two black members of the 12 jury members and two alternates, acquitted Oliver on two lesser charges of aggravated assault resulting from the shooting.
It is extremely rare for police officers to be tried and convicted for murder for the shootings that took place while on duty. Only six non-federal police convicted of murder in such cases — and four of those convictions were set aside — since 2005, according to data compiled by the criminologist and Bowling Green State University professor Phil Stinson.
Edwards’ father has also filed a civil lawsuit in connection with the shooting. The decision of the jury is not only about Jordan Edwards, but also all the other black men and women who have been killed and not received justice, said Washington, the attorney of the toe of his father.
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