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Officers not liable in civil trial, community attendance in courtroom low

Activists: Where is the outrage?

Erick Johnson | 7/3/2014, 9 a.m.
In courtroom 10-4 at the King Building in the Miami Federal Courthouse Complex downtown, two blacks watched helplessly as a ...

In courtroom 10-4 at the King Building in the Miami Federal Courthouse Complex downtown, two blacks watched helplessly as a judge allowed defense attorneys to attack the credibility of Latasha Cure, a woman who sued two police officers who injured her and killed two Blacks in Little Haiti seven years ago.

The defense attorney would continue to have his way as U.S. Magistrate Edwin Torres would deny numerous objections from

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Wilcox

Cure’s attorneys. He would also prohibit jurors from hearing the sullied backgrounds of Miami-Dade police officers Ryan Robinson and Michael Mendez. From there, the case went downhill as jurors returned with their verdict: not guilty.

It was a harsh but predictable end to the civil trial involving Robinson and Mendez, who shot and killed Frisco Blackwood and Michael Knight in 2007. Cure and the two men were returning from a night of partying at Coco Nightclub in North Miami when on their way home, they were followed by the two officers.

THE SHOOTING

Afraid, Blackwood, the driver, made a wrong turn and ended up on a dead-end street in Little Haiti. When he could not drive any further, police approached his vehicle with their guns drawn and told the three to come out with their hands up, according to Cure’s testimony.

Before they could exit the black Cadillac SUV, police unleashed 27 bullets and killed Blackwood and Knight. Cure survived with only a gunshot wound to her thigh, but she said she was roughed up and forced to sign a sworn statement saying Blackwood and Knight attempted to flee the scene. She told a different story to eight jurors in court.

Cure was suing the officers for compensatory and punitive damages with Cheryl Kerr, the mother of one of the dead men.

The civil trial proceeded after Robinson and Mendez were denied immunity by an appeals Court in Atlanta, a rare move for officers involved in controversial shootings.

THE TRIAL

In court, Cure’s attorneys, Ben Kuehne and Jeffrey Allen portrayed the officers as overly aggressive. Contrary to the defense, they argued that Blackwood’s vehicle moved backwards after he had been killed. During the trial, Torres overruled Kuehne’s objections to several testimonies involving the the vehicle's tinted windows and the gear shift analysis of the vehicle.

Officer Robinson is no stranger to the law. In April he was arrested and charged with four counts of driving under the influence after striking a shopping cart that injured two girls at a South Miami-Dade parking lot. Both officers have disciplinary violations on their records.

THE VERDICT

After two days of deliberating, the officers were cleared after six of the eight jurors concluded that Robinson and Mendez did not use excessive force in the shooting deaths of the Black men. Three of the jurors were Black, four were Hispanic and one was white.

Kuehne said there is no word on whether his client will appeal the case, but some believe a new trial should be given because the judge was partial and biased towards the officers.