A jury sequestered in Milwaukee for the first time delivered a not guilty verdict to ex-Milwaukee police officer Dominique Heaggan-Brown, who faced homicide charges for the shooting death of Sylville Smith that sparked violence in Sherman Park last summer.
Heaggan-Brown’s attorney Jonathan Smith spoke with TODAY’S TMJ4 to discuss how the 48 hours after Smith’s death played a big part in the former officer’s trial.
“Everyone wanted it to go well no matter what the verdict,” Smith said. “Had there been a repeat of a year ago... I don't think that would have served anyone well.”
The fires and violence in the days after Heaggan-Brown shot Sylville Smith were on the mind of everyone involved in the homicide trial earlier this summer.
“We had last August, some individuals who took it upon themselves to express themselves in a way that was very destructive to parts of our community and that really affects the entire community,” Jonathan Smith said.
But the community was torn over whether the officer should have shot Sylville Smith, who was armed. Specifically, if he should have fired a second and likely fatal time.
“The 1.69 seconds somehow that changed to a criminal act,” Jonathan Smith said. “I think that is a difficult proposition for most people to accept.”
Smith believes the time between the first and second shots and the fact the only defense witness—a law enforcement trainer who said Heaggan-Brown followed the rules—led to the acquittal.
“It's a little difficult to say here's how you do your job here's what you should look for and then when you do those things we turn around and say that's wrong,” Smith said.
During jury selection, potential jurors were asked what they knew about the officer, including a case that charges Heaggan-Brwon sexually assaulted a man the night after the shootings as coverage of the Sherman Park riots aired on TV.
When that case goes to trial attorneys may take a different approach to jury selection.
“We may well want to delve in more to people's knowledge concerning the first case that went to trial because it could have an effect,” Smith said.
Heaggan-Brown will stand trial on the sex assault and prostitution charges in February next year. He remains in jail on those charges.