Jury selection begins in Gary cops' trial

September 22, 2008 4:30:03 PM PDT
Testimony got under way Monday in the trial of Gary, Indiana's, former police chief and two of his top deputies. They are accused of beating and violating the civil rights of four suspects. The four were suspects in a burglary last summer at the former police chief's home. Prosecutors say former police chief Thomas Houston, officers Thomas Branson and Thomas Decanter attacked the suspects while they were handcuffed.

The government called its first witness Monday, a police lieutenant by the name of Alan Ross. He testified he was on the scene at the time of this alleged incident and heard shouting inside the house that police approached. He testified that he saw former Gary Police Chief Thomas Houston take two suspects behind the building as he was shouting.

This trial is about what the jury will believe. Will they believe the three police officers, or will they believe the four victims who all have criminal convictions?

The trial began with the prosecution laying out the case against the police chief, Branson and Decanter. A jury of two African-Americans and a majority of women were seated Monday morning and heard opening arguments from federal authorities, who accuse the three police officers of abusing their police powers after Houston's house was burglarized.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Erin Aslan told the jury these detectives thought their high ranks could allow them to find someone who might be involved and use brute force and intimidation to get their stuff back. The eight count indictment against them alleges that on June 1, 2007, Houston, acting on a neighbor's tip after thieves stole his police revolver and wife's jewelry from his home, headed to the home of Sheila Baker with officers Branson and Decanter. When they arrived, Houston verbally abused and assaulted Baker, her daughter, Melissa Manley, Manley's boyfriend, Darren Johnson, and another man.

Decanter is accused of beating Johnson in the arm with a piece of wood. Decanter's attorney said they were just standing around and nobody hit him. They were never charged and eventually released.

The government accused of Branson of lying about the incident to federal authorities. Houston, Branson and Decanter deny any wrongdoing.

The prosecution would agree this would be a tough case for them to prove. They have no video or audio of the alleged incident even though they say they are confident they can prove the Gary police officers abused their police powers.

Defense attorneys said these officers had probable cause to do what they did and operated within the law.


Load Comments