North Texas

Mistrial in Fort Worth Police Officer Shooting Trial

The trial of a Fort Worth police officer accused of shooting a man while on duty has been declared a mistrial.

After more than a day of deliberations the jury was deadlocked 7 to 5 and could not reach a verdict, the judge said Wednesday. It’s not clear if the split weighed more toward acquittal or conviction.

In a statement, Tarrant County District Attorney Sharen Wilson says she will consider the lack of a verdict along with the evidence at trial to determine whether to retry the case.

"In our constitutional system of justice, we trust juries to make decisions in every trial based on the law and the evidence in each individual case," Wilson said. "The jury carefully considered this case and was unable to reach a unanimous verdict. We will consider the jury's inability to reach a verdict and the evidence presented at trial to decide whether a retrial is justified."

Officer Courtney Johnson was hustled out of the courtroom, flanked by officers and with no resolution to his case.

"It's good to know that the jury, who are citizens of Tarrant County, almost half or more than half believe he should have been acquitted," said defense attorney Tim Choy.

Officer Johnson faced a charge of assault by a public servant for shooting Craigory Adams in the arm, back in 2015. He was responding to a call of someone banging on a neighbor's door with a knife and encountered Adams holding what turned out to be a large barbecue fork.

Adams had dropped the fork at his feet and dropped to one knee, when Officer Johnson says he accidentally shot him.

"When Courtney kept saying my finger wasn't on the trigger, he doesn't believe his finger was on the trigger," defense attorney Jim Lane said.

Experts testified that Officer Johnson did pull the trigger as a "sympathetic reflex" when he racked the shotgun in warning with his other hand.

"You didn't intentionally shoot this man did you?" Lane asked during testimony. "No sir, I did not," Officer Johnson replied, his voice breaking with emotion.

But in his own testimony, Craigory Adams said that Officer Johnson used a racial slur before shooting him.

Adams, who has a mental impairment, wasn't in court on Wednesday but activists, including Jacqueline Craig, were. She had her own high-profile incident with Fort Worth police.

"I'm really hurt right now because I have to accept the fact that we as African Americans, our tax dollars are actually paying the police officers to murder and brutalize us," Craig said.

Her cousin Rod Smith added, “We don’t know what to tell our children, if he made all of these wrong decisions and there are no consequences to those decisions.”

Johnson's attorneys said the slur allegation didn't come out until the grand jury. They firmly dismissed any racial motivation.

"I’m old enough to know what it looks like and smells like and feels like, racism," Lane said. "Courtney Johnson is not a racist and that's why the black officers came in here and I had 100 other officers, black officers, willing to come and say that's silly."

NBC 5 spoke to Craigory Adams' uncle by phone but the family is too upset to comment yet.

Officer Johnson remains on desk duty with the Fort Worth Police Department until he finds out if he's going back on trial.

The trial of a Fort Worth police officer accused of shooting a man while on duty has been declared a mistrial.

On Tuesday, Johnson took the stand in his own defense for a second day before the defense rested. Both sides then delivered their closing arguments, and the jury was given the case just before 2 p.m.

The jury deliberated until about 6:30 p.m. and returned Wednesday morning to continue deliberations.

While on the stand Tuesday, Johnson admitted the shooting was not justified and there was no immediate threat to his life. Prior to the shooting Adams had been holding a large barbecue fork, but he dropped it when prompted by the officer.

Johnson's lawyers call the shooting an accidental discharge.

Prosecutors questioned why the officer disobeyed training by disengaging the safety and "half-racking" the shotgun. Johnson said he had not made a conscious decision to shoot.

The defense asked jurors to put themselves in the officer's shoes. They told jurors it is difficult to recreate the amount of stress police officers encounter when they think they are in danger.

Sending a message became a theme in closing arguments. The prosecution told jurors to send a message to officers that these types of incidents are not permitted. The defense team countered with a warning to jurors to be careful with what message is actually sent.

This is the first time in at least 15 years a police officer has stood trial for shooting someone while on duty in Tarrant County.

A Tarrant County jury will now decide the fate of a Fort Worth police officer who is accused of shooting a man in the arm while on duty.
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