According to his mother, Janice Jackson, he did not know anything about Davis. As he was trying to figure out how to get out of Davis, he went to a store to buy a can of beer. Mr. Carter suffers from a mental disorder and he often carries all of his items on him. That includes a pair of clippers and a knife that he used to adjust the clippers. It is an old knife, worn down and dulled from the use, but it was in his pocket.
He would be charged and eventually convicted of carrying a concealed dirk after the jury originally deadlocked on the charge. In a separate hearing, the judge would hear on the enhancements and give him enhancements for prior prison and a prior conviction that he had been assessed back in 1998. He will be sentenced on August 26.
Questions linger, was he racially profiled as his family and attorney claim? Or did the Davis Police Department do the right thing approaching an individual who was stopped in the middle of the night because he was acting suspiciously, appearing to be casing a fenced and locked storage unit facility, on searchable probation, and found to have a concealed knife that legally amounted to a dirk/ dagger as the police and prosecutors claim?
This was not an open and shut case though. While the trial itself lasted barely a day and a half, the deliberations by the jury lasted far longer than that and they came back deadlocked. They were sent back and quickly convicted Mr Carter.
According to testimony from Officer Bellamy the defendant was walking near a storage facility at 10 pm. Officer Bellamy made contact with Carter which then resulted in a lawful search. Upon his search, Officer Bellamy recovered a 3 1/2 inch folding knife with a locking mechanism from Carter’s jacket pocket. The knife was found in an extended and locked position and readily could have been used as a stabbing weapon.
Officer Bellamy asks Mr. Carter if he had anything on him and he told the officer that he had a pocketknife. He had open pockets in his jacket, and he pulled out first the unopened can of beer which was vertically in front of the knife in the pocket. The knife was opened with sharp edge facing downward.
The defense countered that Mr. Carter was stopped because he was the only black man on the street. That Mr. Carter never ran away. That he walked towards the officer. The police report made no mention of the can of beer. Officer Bellamy also went through the backpack and found no contraband. The defense also points out that the knife has a dull tip and possibly could have been used as a screwdriver.
The defense also argued that the camera on the police car only faces forward, yet the interview started behind the car out of sight. Moreover there was no audio recovered – conveniently, implied Defense Attorney Public Defender David Mueller. So there was no evidence of the search for the pocketknife or the first contact with defendant.
Mr. Mueller asked Officer Bellamy on the stand, “What would you have done if Mr. Carter had ignored you?”
Officer Bellamy replied, “He could have walked away.”
In closing, Mr. Mueller pointed out that the officer intentionally omitted from his report the 24oz beer, which was the first thing he pulled out. The presence of beer was important in determining whether the pocket knife was readily available. Moreover, Mr. Carter told the officer from the beginning he had a knife, he was not trying to lie. The knife was used as a screwdriver, it was not intended as a weapon. The knife was old and worn, and the bolts were loose. Mr. Carter did not know the knife was open.
He also questioned Officer Bellamy’s conduct during the contact implying that he made it a point not to contact in front of the police vehicle. His reason was for procedure and police safety, but isn’t it safer, with the car camera and lights, to be in front of the car? Contact on the side of car ensures thatthe only thing that counts is his own testimony.
Why would Officer Bellamy make things up? Public Defender Mueller suggested that it looks bad on his record for a young officer to search a black man randomly without finding anything wrong
One of the interesting points here was that the defense argued that Mr. Carter has the presumption of innocence. However, the DA argued that “once evidence is given, that eliminates the presumption of innocence.”
He continued by suggesting that the Defense was trying to show Officer Bellamy to be a racist lying cop. He argued there was no evidence that Officer Bellamy was lying or racist. If he wanted to intentionally deceive the jury, why would he testify that he did find a beer can? He argued that regardless of the beer can, a knife like that can hurt someone and that the defense is simply trying to distract the jury with things that are irrelevant such as claims that the Officer was racist.
The Jury was deadlocked. Public Defender Davis Mueller argued that the jury had discussed the case for long enough, and that the court should accept the deadlocked decision. If they go back to discussion, he argued, a unanimous decision will be the result of some people giving in.
Judge Thomas Warriner did not accept the deadlock and instead read the jury laws pertaining to a concealed dirk, a definition of a dirk, and example of when pocketknife is not readily used. For instance, if there are intervening manipulations, even if the knife is unscrewed, it would not be readily usable.
For the defense, obviously the beer can was the intervening manipulation. Officer Bellamy himself had to do an intervening manipulation on the can himself before he could get to the knife. Carter may have known he had the knife, but the People can’t prove that he knew it was open.
The DA argued that Mr. Carter knew there was a knife in his pocket because he put the beer can in his pocket and the beer can was cold. Moreover he told the officer he had a knife.
Finally the DA tried to re-read the law pertaining to a concealed dirk. Mr. Mueller and the DA approached Judge Warriner and the DA pointed at Mr. Mueller and was overheard telling the judge that “he’s lying about the law.”
After being sent out the jury quickly returned with a guilty verdict. Were they pushed into that verdict or was the re-reading of the law what convinced them?
This case raises a number of troubling questions. Sentencing will occur on August 24, and with the prior prison enhancements that date back a good amount of time, Mr. Carter is likely facing prison time. And yet, clearly Mr. Carter suffers from mental ailments which directly led to his lifestyle and the fact that he carried a knife on him.
According to his mother, this is not the first time he’s been arrested and the knife has never been an issue before. He simply uses it, as ill-conceived as it might seem, to adjust his clippers. One has to wonder, of course, if Mr. Carter would be better suited getting psychiatric treatment rather than prison time. One might also reasonably wonder if a white person in his same place would have been approached by a police officer. Maybe he would have, but it was clear, talking to his mother, that she knew Davis was not the place for a black man to be lost and wandering around as her son was.
Was this a textbook Terry Stop or was it as the defense claims, racial profiling? That is a question perhaps that we need to ponder. According to a definition of Terry Stop, “When a police officer observes unusual conduct which leads him or her to reasonably suspect criminal activity may be occurring and that the persons with whom he is dealing may be armed and presently dangerous, the officer might approach and briefly detain the subjects for the purpose of conducting a limited investigation.”
However, according to the testimony of Officer Bellamy, this would not be a Terry Stop which is a detention but rather a consensual stop. As the Officer testified, he could have walked away. A consensual stop makes it nearly impossible to prove racial profiling charges. The problem is that we know what the Officer’s story was here, he looked suspicious. Was he really looking like he was casing the storage facility or was he just wandering around where he probably seemed out of place? The question is though, would he have seen out of place if he was a white man? That is a question we can probably never answer.
The other question is whether this was the right verdict. It was obviously a difficult verdict for the jury, given the fact that he freely acknowledged the knife in his pocket, which leads me to believe he was not intending to use it. Also the dullness of the knife lends credibility to this not being an intended weapon. The sense was that the jury had been going on for almost two days on a trial that barely last one day and they wanted to go home. When the judge did not accept their deadlock, they may have decided they had enough. We have seen shorter periods of deadlock accepted in other cases. I think it was questionable for the Judge to send them back.
—David M. Greenwald reporting