Jurors reached a not guilty verdict in the trial of a former Houston police officer who has been accused of beating a teenage burglary suspect, and prosecutors took a lot of heat Thursday for some of their decisions.
Andrew Blomberg was found not guilty of misdemeanor oppression on Wednesday.
Blomberg was fired along with three other officers after they were caught on videotape kicking and stomping 15-year-old burglary suspect Chad Holley in March 2010.
Community activist Quanell X was shocked at the verdict.
"Unbelievable. Unbelievable. We never had a chance with an all-white jury. With an all-white jury, this case was gone from the very beginning. This is a disgrace. What happened was a damn shame -- what happened in that courtroom today. It was an absolute disgrace. This is horrible. I can only imagine how Chad and his mother are feeling right now. That says to all of us that the life of a black man in Houston, Texas, Harris County, don't mean a damn thing," Quanell X said. "I think the community has the right to voice their displeasure however they see fit, and whatever the community response is, I believe it's appropriate."
Pastor James White said the all-white jury never considered justice for Chad Holley.
"This is absolutely atrocious," he said. "It is the greatest miscarriage of justice we've ever seen."
"There is no justice," one woman yelled in a hallway at the courthouse. "It's straight racism."
On Thursday, District Attorney Pat Lykos said jurors are drawn at random, not by race.
In the Blomberg case, the final panel of 26 prospective jurors included two African Americans. One of them was employed by Lykos and the other had an arrest record.
"The black prospective jurors were struck by the defense, Lykos said. "There's nothing we could have done to prevent what actually occurred with respect to jury selection."
Holley's attorney and others have criticized the decision to try Blomberg before the other three officers in the case. They said the case against Blomberg was the hardest to prove.
"I think that it is disappointing to both of them," attorney Ben Hall said. "The verdict exposes a shortcoming in our judicial system when an out-of-control police officer is permitted to escape criminal consequences for his actions."
Lykos said prosecutors proposed trying all four officers together.
"The defendants requested that there be a severance of these trials and the defense was given the right to select which case went first," Lykos said.
Quanell X criticized the choice of which prosecutor tried the case. He said Clint Greenwood, who is the head of the police integrity division, should not have been assigned to the case because he lost another high-profile police brutality case last year.
After the verdict was read, Blomberg thanked the jurors and officers who supported him.
"I just want to thank everybody," Blomberg said. "It's been a very long ordeal."
Blomberg said the incident was never racial. He said he has no regrets, but will take a "deep breath" before deciding whether to go back into law enforcement.
"This is the only thing I ever wanted to do in my life," he said.
Prosecutors and the jurors declined to comment on the verdict.
Houston Mayor Annise Parker told KPRC Local 2 that she does not agree with the jury's verdict and Blomberg will not be rehired by HPD.
Police Chief Charles McClelland had a similar response.
"I understand that some will disagree with the verdict, and although no system is perfect, our system of jurisprudence provides appropriate safeguards to protect our freedom," McClelland said in a statement. "I also appreciate the citizens of Houston and trust that they will continue to express themselves in a manner that is respectful of the rights and privileges we all share."
The police chief also said that Blomberg will not get his job back.
"He has appealed my decision to fire him, and he lost that appeal in arbitration," McClelland said. "Case closed."
Quanell X released the videotape of the incident to the public. He got it from a woman who worked at a self-storage facility that's cameras captured the beating.
"I just can't understand how anyone could come up with an innocent verdict," Cyndi Payton said.
Payton said she does not regret handing over the tape, even though it cost her her job. She said she then lost her home, her pickup truck and some friends."
"We have rogue-ish police officers that work for HPD," she said. "If the mayor and police chief weren't going to do anything about it, I was."
Former officers Drew Ryser, Phillip Bryan and Raad Hassan are expected to be tried later this year.
"I wish them the best of luck," Blomberg said. "They're all my brothers, and I wish them luck."