Florida's notorious Stand Your Ground self-defense law won't be enough to spare a cop from trial for shooting an armed black man.
A judge ruled Friday that she found the police officer's testimony about the killing of Corey Jones to be "unreliable and not credible."
In a 27-page ruling, Judge Samantha Schosberg Feuer of Florida’s 15th Judicial Circuit Court denied a motion to have the case dismissed. She noted several inconsistencies between the officer's testimony and the evidence of the case.
Former Palm Beach Gardens Police Officer Nouman K. Raja had shot and killed Jones, a musician and house inspector, while inspecting Jones' car that had been parked at the side of an interstate on October 18, 2015. Jones was 31.
What happened between Raja approaching the car and Jones' death has been disputed.
Raja fired six shots at Jones — who was armed — only moments after arriving at the scene. Three of the six shots hit Jones, killing him. Raja later claimed that Jones, who was black, had pointed a gun at him. Prosecutors disputed that claim, saying that Raja fired at Jones as he attempted to flee.
Raja was fired from the Palm Beach Gardens Police Department a month after the shooting. In 2016, he was charged with manslaughter by culpable negligence and attempted first-degree murder with a firearm.
Feuer pointed to several discrepancies in Raja's testimony. For example, audio recording of the shooting captured by Jones shows that Raja, who was in plain clothes, had not clearly identified himself as an officer, even though Raja claimed he did.
Feuer also noted that the Stand Your Ground law, which allows the use of deadly force “if [a person] reasonably believes it is necessary” to prevent “imminent death or great bodily harm,” did not apply in this case, since evidence showed Jones had been attempted to escape from Raja.
“Although the witnesses were unable to determine when each of the shots were fired or the order in which Jones received the wounds,” Feuer wrote, “two of the three wounds entered through the back side of Jones, consistent with someone who is running away from the shooter.”
Feuer said Raja "remains free to use" the Stand Your Ground defense at his trial, even if it's not enough to dismiss said trial.
Raja's attorney, Richard Lubin, said he plans to file an appeal of Feuer's decision this week, according to The Associated Press. The appeal will likely delay the trial's official start date, which had been planned for July.
The Office of the State Attorney, which is prosecuting the case, has not commented on the trial.
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