This is a travesty of justice. Let’s take a look at who is responsible.
Start with the Prince George’s police department, which engaged in a conspiracy of silence and coverup. Initially, the police accused Mr. McKenna in court documents of attacking and injuring a mounted police officer; they said his injuries resulted from being kicked by a horse. This was an invention, as the video showed. If Mr. McKenna was guilty of anything, it was of being oblivious.
Yet no one in the police department came forward with the truth or even, for several months, the identity of the officers who beat Mr. McKenna, even though plenty of them saw what happened. (The police, who wore helmets with visors during the beating, were identified to prosecutors only when a new chief, Mark A. Magaw, took office and cracked the whip.)
Even after the video surfaced, and even after the county paid Mr. McKenna $2 million in damages after he filed a civil suit, the officers who beat him continued receiving their pay for more than two years while on administrative leave. The officer convicted of the beating, James Harrison Jr., was allowed to retire last month — with his pension. Under state rules, he will not be allowed to work again as a police officer in Maryland.
Then there was the unprofessional conduct of the Prince George’s County Circuit Court judge, Beverly J. Woodard, who presided at the officers’ trial. Ms. Woodard was previously married to a Prince George’s police officer who himself was convicted in 1988 for repeatedly shooting an unarmed suspect in the back, as he lay on the ground, with a confiscated BB gun. When she was assigned to handle a trial involving a similar case of alleged police misconduct and assault, she should have at least disclosed that fact, if not recused herself. She did neither.
She withheld the information until asked about it during the trial by a journalist, Brad Bell of WJLA-TV. At that point she summoned counsel for both sides into her chambers and, in an emotional meeting, refused to declare a mistrial, insisting that she could be fair. Her reasoning remains unknown because she did not allow a court reporter into the meeting.