Thursday, July 31, 2014


Md.: Detective from Eastampton found not guilty in road-rage shooting

Detective Walker

An Eastampton man who is a police officer in Hudson County was acquitted Wednesday of first-degree murder in the shooting of a driver during a case of road rage in Maryland.

Jurors in Anne Arundel County Circuit Court also found Joseph Walker not guilty of all other charges, including second-degree murder, voluntary manslaughter and firearms offenses.

Walker, 41, a detective with the Hudson County Prosecutor’s Office, was arrested after fatally shooting Joseph Harvey, of Lansdowne, on June 8, 2013, in Annapolis. He would have faced life in prison if convicted of the first-degree murder charge.

Walker declined to comment after the verdict, and no one answered the door at his home Wednesday afternoon.

The Capital Gazette of Annapolis reported that Charles Curlett Jr., one of Walker’s lawyers, said after the verdict, "We are extremely pleased that the jury was able to see this for what it was — a father who was forced to defend his family, including his wife and his children, who were under attack on the side of the road."

"The prosecution’s theory of the case that this was an act of murder, that this was motivated by aggression and anger, is simply wrong," Curlett said.

State’s Attorney Anne Colt Leitess said she was disappointed by the verdict and stood by the allegations. She said Walker had options, such as calling 911 or driving away, instead of fatally shooting Harvey.

"It was a well-fought case, it was an excellent case, but at the end of the day, I am concerned that Mr. Walker, as a law enforcement officer, is a very aggressive person," the Capital Gazette reported Leitess said. "In this case, he had many, many options."

The case drew national attention as well as action by the National Police Defense Foundation, which applauded the verdict and said it would ask the U.S. Department of Justice to conduct an investigation into alleged prosecutorial misconduct.

The jury deliberated for about six hours over two days in the trial, which began July 22.

According to testimony, Walker was driving his family home from Odenton when his van drifted into Harvey’s lane on Route 175.

Walker testified that Harvey forced his van onto a shoulder, and the two drivers got out of their vehicles, about 50 yards apart. Walker said when Harvey and a passenger in Harvey’s vehicle approached him, he showed his badge and told the men to stop.

Walker said that the men continued walking toward him and that he pulled his gun and warned them to stop, but they did not.

Walker testified that he shot Harvey once, turned to the passenger, who had stopped walking, then turned back to Harvey, who he said continued to move toward him, and shot him two more times.

Harvey died at a hospital.

Walker is an 18-year police veteran and the father of three children, according to neighbors and the National Police Defense Foundation. He was suspended after the incident. It was not immediately clear if he had been reinstated following the verdict.

A spokesman for the Hudson County Prosecutor’s Office did not return phone calls requesting comment Wednesday about the verdict and Walker’s employment status.

The Capital Gazette reported that Leitess said the State’s Attorney’s Office is aware of two similar incidents of alleged aggressive behavior by Walker in New Jersey, including an incident in which he got into a confrontation with a neighbor and used his badge and authority to argue and threaten her.

The newspaper reported that Leitess said the other incident involved a man who told her office that Walker approached him and displayed a weapon, threatening and frightening him.

Residents interviewed in Walker’s Eastampton neighborhood said they were happy for him and his family and believed the jury delivered a just verdict.

"I think it never should have gone to trial," resident Ronald Brown said. "I think that thing should never have made it past grand jury."

Other residents described Walker as a nice family man who was helpful to friends and neighbors.

"Joe’s a personal friend of mine, and I’m glad he was found not guilty," said George Dick, adding that he didn’t known what to expect from the jury trial. "I’m just happy for Joe," he said.

Original report here




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