Jury calls for charges against 3 cops in Williams case
Milwaukee, WI – On Feb.21, the jury in the Derek Williams inquest decided to urge special prosecutor John Franke to press charges against three officers in connection with the death of Derek Williams,
Williams was an African American youth who died while he was in Milwaukee Police Department (MPD) custody. Within the first three days of the trial, seven of the 20 MPD officers who were called to testify plead the Fifth. A few of those seven officers agreed to testify only after they were promised immunity. The arresting officer and two other officers were not offered immunity.
Members of Derek Williams' family and other witnesses from the Riverwest neighborhood where Williams was arrested testified as well. In many cases the testimony from community members and family members contradicted that of the officers.
Officers claimed that Williams stated that he couldn't breathe one time, but others stated that he pleaded with officers many times about his inability to breathe. Towards the end of the inquest, in a disappointing move, the prosecutor and judge decided that felony unintentional homicide charges would not be considered if the jury called for a criminal trial. In the end, the jury decided to recommend misdemeanor ‘Failure to Render Aide’ charges. It was clear by both testimony and the video tape of Derek Williams in the squad car that officers did not act soon enough when it was apparent that he was in distress.
The day after the inquest, Occupy Milwaukee and other community organizers released statements denouncing the court's decision to consider only misdemeanor charges while at the same time acknowledging that it was good thing that the jury decided to press charges at all.
Occupy Milwaukee demanded that the special prosecutor uphold the jury's decision and also demanded that a full investigation into MPD be launched, the officers be fired regardless of the outcome of the criminal trial and that MPD be subject to more citizen oversight from now on. There has been no final decision from the prosecutor on whether or not formal charges will be pressed against the cops who are liked to Williams’ death.