Don't Shoot Portland Trial Day 2: Jury Selection and Opening Statements

Kyle Curtis Facebook

"We need to dismantle this racist system and rebuild with courage and integrity." -Teressa Raiford, Don't Shoot Portland

Don't Shoot Portland Trial Day 2: Jury Selection and Opening Statements

Community activist Teressa Raiford receives support from her mother Tieleen Freeman before she heads into the second day of her trial.

At the conclusion of yesterday's proceedings, Judge Michael Greenlick not only cast doubt on the testimony provided by one of the state witnesses, he also determined that the officers lacked probable cause to arrest Don't Shoot Portland leader Teressa Raiford on a disorderly conduct charge stemming from her involvement with an August 2015 Black Lives Matter protest. However, in a surprising manner, Judge Greenlick suggested how the state's charges against Raiford could be amended to properly apply the disorderly conduct charge.

Instead of having the charges dropped, Raiford's trial continued into it's second day, completing the jury selection process and also opening statements.

Prosecuting attorney Eamon McMahon was joined by Deputy District Attorney Jeffrey Lowe, one of Multnomah County's top prosecutors. The addition of Lowe in support of the state's case against Raiford may be taken as a sign that steps were taken to avoid similarly embarrassing missteps that occurred the day before. At the same time, it also raises questions about how much legal firepower was being lined up to prosecute a Class B Misdemeanor charge against Raiford.

"We are talking about systematic racism," Raiford said during the lunch break. "It's doing exactly what it's designed to do."

When asked if she wouldn't be facing a jury trial for a misdemeanor charge if she was white, Raiford responded in the affirmative. "None of my white homies were arrested for doing the exact same thing," Raiford pointed out.

Prosecution's New Argument of Disorderly Conduct

On Monday, the prosecuting attorney asserted that Raiford was not targeted for arrest due to 100 protestors filling the intersection of SE 82nd Avenue and Division during the Black Lives Matter rally on August 9, 2015. However, after Judge Greenlick found the state lacked probable cause on its initial charge, the state responded today by claiming the protestors occupying the intersection was the inciting incident that ultimately led to Raiford obstructing traffic--and therefore guilty of disorderly conduct.

In response, Raiford's attorney Matt McHenry argued that the state was pursuing selective prosecution, and demanded the state explain why Raiford was arrested for disorderly conduct and ninety-nine other protestors weren't. Lowe responded that as Raiford returned to the street, the police knew who she was and this led to her arrest.

After McHenry points out that the state admitted Raiford was targeted for arrest due to "who she was," Judge Greenlick responded that if crowds comply with police orders, they'll leave well enough alone. As the police arrested Raiford after she returned to the street, McHenry's charge of selective prosecution did not apply.

With no further challenges to dismiss the charges against Raiford, the trial continued to the jury selection process.

A Jury of Her Peers?

During the voir dire process, both McHenry and McCann engaged in conversation with potential jurors, touching on such subjects as previous protesting experience, past interactions with police officers--both positive and negative--and the potential racial elements of the case against Raiford.

Opinions towards police officers ran the gamut in the pool of potential jurors. A couple did agree that police officers should be viewed as more "trustworthy" witnesses, as the profession attracts civic-minded citizens with a commitment to upholding the law. Not surprisingly, a similar number took the opposing view, that those with a desire to wield power over others pursue a career as a police officer. Most, however, determined that there was a "third camp" in which police officers are attracted to power but also equally attracted to protecting the public. Simply put, McHenry said, generalizations can't be made about the motivations of police officers.

In response to a line of questioning about freedom of speech and actions taken to express First Amendment rights, it was revealed that the pool contained many veteran protestors who opposed the Vietnam War, apartheid-era South Africa, and the 1990 Gulf War. There was a general consensus that nonviolent behavior and destruction of property shouldn't be engaged in during protests. When asked if the ranchers who occupied the Malheur County wildlife refuge this past winter "went too far," a number of hands shot up. (Excluding the one juror who had somehow not heard of the 41-day occupation.) However, not all prospective jurors believed that all laws always needed to be followed while protesting. "Sometimes the law is wrong," one prospective juror responded, pointing out there is a reason why we continually change our laws.

McHenry brought up the Black Lives Matter movement, and asked whether the racial components of the case would prevent any potential jurors from being fair and impartial. None of the jurors owned to having any racial bias. One even shared that he had an 11-year old adopted black son, and is quite concerned about the issues addressed in the Black Lives Matter movement. (Despite the lack of racial bias admitted by the potential jury pool, one did admit his bias against people that stand in the street: "They drive me crazy!")

Of the seven members finally selected to serve as Raiford's jury, one is an elderly Asian man and another is an openly gay man. Raiford did not express concerns, saying that she had "no problem" with the jury's make-up during the lunch break.

Opening Statements

"Black lives matter," Prosecutor Lowe began as he addressed the jury. "Yes, they most certainly do."

However, Lowe continues, there is more to Raiford's story then the fact that black lives matter. This story not only involves political speech, but also involves stopping traffic. Since Raiford was told multiple times to get out of the street but didn't, she is guilty of disorderly conduct in the second degree.

In his opening statements, McHenry related how Raiford's nephew was shot and killed in Portland as she was visiting from Texas in 2010. Raiford never returned to Texas, but has been an activist in Portland ever since, forming Don't Shoot Portland in response to the death of 18-year old Michael Brown at the hands of police in Ferguson, Mo. in August 2014. McHenry shared how Raiford's previous complaints filed against the Portland Police and her demands that an audit of PPB violence against minorities has raised her profile with the police--and not in a good way.

"She's loud," McHenry related, "and the police know who she is."

McHenry stated that the August 9, 2015 Black Lives Matter event was intended to be celebratory in nature, with a conscious effort to include activities and opportunities to involve children and older adults who were unable to participate in previous protests and marches. McHenry stated that the celebratory nature turned antagonistic with the arrival of the eight patrol cars and eleven police officers that situated themselves on the opposite side of the street.

As he wound down his address to the jury, McHenry subtlety implied that Raiford was a target of selective prosecution. "The state will argue that Raiford's main goal that day was to obstruct traffic; that her specific intent was to be a public nuisance and inconvenience," McHenry said in his concluding remarks, using the statutory language defining disorderly conduct. "However, the fact is that the decision was made to arrest Mrs. Raiford that day despite others doing the exact same thing. The police want Mrs. Raiford to be quiet, which is why they targeted her and her alone."

Due to previous commitments, I had to leave the courtroom during the cross examination of Sgt. Jacob Clark, who--as the incident commander on August 9, 2015--was the state's first witness. Sgt. Clark provided the same information that he did during the previous day's pretrial hearings, but in response to McHenry's line of questioning it was never really clear whether Sgt. Clark communicated directly to Raiford when he warned her to get out of the street, as she only responded by turning her back to him.

The last question I heard before exiting the courtroom was McHenry asking Sgt. Clark whether it was appropriate for five armed police officers--complete with body armor--to cross the street and arrest Raiford. "Yes," Sgt. Clark responded.

I was informed by others that stayed in the courtroom after I left that Officer Susan Billard was called to testify as the state's next witness, and proceeded to provide testimony that was completely contrary to what she provided at the previous day's pretrial hearings. (The same testimony that Judge Greenlick did not find credible. ) The impact of Billard's new testimony will be gauged at tomorrow's proceedings.

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