Saturday, December 13, 2008

A muzzled jury in Britain

The verdict should be appealed on the grounds of an improper direction from the coroner

The family of a Brazilian mistakenly killed by anti-terror police in London condemned an inquest into his death as a "whitewash" after jurors returned an inconclusive "open" verdict. Jurors at the inquest into the death of Jean Charles de Menezes in 2005 had been barred from returning a verdict of unlawful killing by the coroner, who gave them only the options of lawful killing or an open verdict.

The jury did challenge police claims over the killing, in particular rejecting the suggestion Mr de Menezes had moved towards a police marksman moments before he was shot.

Mr De Menezes was shot seven times in the head at a London Underground train station on July 22, 2005, the day after a failed attempt to replicate the attacks of July 7, when four suicide bombers killed 52 people. Police had followed the 27-year-old electrician onto a train in the mistaken belief he was failed suicide bomber Hussain Osman, who lived in Mr De Menezes's block of flats.

The family, who walked out of the inquest in protest last week when coroner Michael Wright barred the jury from giving an unlawful killing verdict, voiced outrage at the outcome. "After three months of evidence, 100 witnesses and millions of pounds, the coroner, Sir Michael Wright, has presided over a complete whitewash," the family said in a statement. "He has failed on every count of the purpose of an inquest investigation."

The jurors challenged police claims about the killing in answering a series of questions put to them by the coroner. Specifically they rejected a firearms officer's claim that he shouted "armed police" before opening fire at de Menezes, and said the Brazilian did not move towards one of the officers before he was pinned to his seat and killed.

London's Metropolitan Police was heavily criticised in a report in August last year on the killing, although then police chief Ian Blair escaped censure.

Over the course of the inquest, jurors heard more than seven weeks of evidence from about 100 witnesses, including the two officers who shot Mr De Menezes at Stockwell station.

Original report here

(And don't forget your ration of Wicked Thoughts for today)

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