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11 above law { January 22 2003 }

Original Source Link: (May no longer be active),0,6926208.story?coll=orl-news-headlines,0,6926208.story?coll=orl-news-headlines

11 officers planted guns at crimes, prosecutors say
By Catherine Wilson
The Associated Press

January 22, 2003

MIAMI -- Eleven Miami police officers who saw themselves as "untouchable" and above the law planted guns at four police shootings and lied about it, a prosecutor charged Tuesday in opening statements at their corruption trial.

Defense attorney William Matthewman called the federal conspiracy case "a flawed, flawed prosecution" and asked jurors to reject "any so-called super-duper" plot by officers assigned to special street-crime units. Each could face 10 years in prison if convicted.

The indictment covers shootings that left three men dead and one wounded. Only one officer is tied to all four shootings from late 1995 to mid-1997 when the city was fighting bad publicity internationally about violent tourist robberies.

"Eleven men who saw themselves as being above the law" covered up questionable shootings by planting guns and lying about it afterward "so they wouldn't get in trouble," prosecutor Curtis Miner said.

He told jurors that they won't be asked to decide whether the shootings were justified but whether the officers reached an understanding to obstruct justice afterward.

"They were part of a clique that saw themselves as different from other officers on the force. They saw themselves as untouchable," Miner said. The case is "about cops who went too far, who crossed the line between what is right and what is wrong."

The shootings where the officers are accused of planting guns include the killings of two men who robbed tourists then jumped off an interstate overpass to get away from police, a 120-shot SWAT volley that killed a 72-year-old man described by Matthewman as "an armed drug dealer," the wounding of a drunken homeless man carrying a Walkman, and a three-shot foot chase survived by a purse-snatching suspect.

In all cases, prosecutors say weapons were planted near the victims, including two handguns seized in arrests but never booked as evidence in the police property room. The defense contends police reports of armed suspects were correct in each case.

The trial has racial overtones in a city wracked by riots or street clashes six times from 1980 to 1995 after killings of black and Hispanic men by police and acquittals of officers tried for their on-the-job roles.

All 11 defendants and eight jurors are Hispanic. Two retired white officers who pleaded guilty in exchange for leniency will be star prosecution witnesses.

Community outrage over police inaction on dozens of officer-involved shootings led to a chief's resignation, the creation of a civilian shooting-review board with subpoena powers and policy changes.

Copyright 2003, Orlando Sentinel

11 above law { January 22 2003 }
11 accused corruption { January 22 2003 }
Miama accused coverups { January 5 2003 }
Miami trial 11 officers
Officers coverups { January 6 2003 }

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