A judge has thrown out an assault charge against a white policeman whose scuffle with a black high school student was caught on videotape, ruling that the use of force was justified.
Leflore County Circuit Judge Ashley Hines in a ruling issued Monday cited witnesses who said the teenager took a swing at the officer and provoked the altercation. The security camera video drew national attention.
The judge’s ruling said there was no probable cause to arrest officer Casey Wiggins for simple assault. Police officers and public school teachers are entitled to a probable cause hearing under state law before arrest if they are accused of breaking the law while on duty.
The school security videotapes showed Wiggins twice pull his gun on then-17-year-old James Marshall in a crowded hallway at Greenwood High School on Dec. 6, 2006. At one point, Wiggins, who had been conducting a routine patrol of the school, also appeared to put the teen in a choke hold.
“Basically, this doesn’t come as a surprise,” Wiggins’ attorney, Mitchell Creel, said of the judge’s decision.
Carlos Moore, who represents Marshall, said he was “shocked.”
“Historically in Mississippi, if you’re white, you’re right, if you’re black, get back,” the lawyer said. “The video speaks for itself. My client was not armed and the officer was clearly attacking him.”
Legal claims continue
Besides citing witnesses who described Marshall as belligerent during the confrontation, the judge’s ruling said the teenager himself was not a “credible” witness.
Kenneth Duncan, a Greenwood student at the time, testified that he did not see the officer throw Marshall and another student against the wall, as Marshall testified.
Although Wiggins worked for the Greenwood Police Department, he had not yet undergone formal training required of police officers in Mississippi at the time of the altercation at the school.
Moore has filed a $2 million lawsuit and a federal criminal complaint, accusing Wiggins of using excessive force and of making a false arrest. He said he will continue to press the legal claims.
Greenwood is about 100 miles north of Jackson.