Jury reconvenes in trial of Dover officer

DOVER — Jurors resumed deliberations Monday in the trial of a Delaware police officer charged with assault after breaking a suspect’s jaw with a kick during a 2013 arrest.

The jury reconvened at 9 a.m. after deliberating for more than four hours Friday in the case of Dover Police officer Cpl. Thomas Webster IV.

Outside the courthouse, a handful of protesters demonstrated, carrying signs with slogans including “Black Lives Matter” and “Justice Now.” One sign read “Guilty” above a photograph of Cpl.  Webster and “Bad Cops” below his photo.

Prompted by a similar demonstration Sunday at a local shopping mall calling for fairness in the justice system, Cpl. Webster’s defense attorney emailed the judge asking him to verify whether jurors, who may have been Christmas shopping this weekend, had obeyed the court’s instructions to avoid media accounts of the trial or read any outside material.

It was not immediately clear how Judge Ferris Wharton responded to Jim Liguori’s email.

Late Monday morning, jurors sent a note to the judge asking if they could have a dictionary to help them define “gross deviation” or if Judge Wharton could define the term for them.

To convict Cpl. Webster of felony assault, jurors must find that he caused serious physical injury and that he acted intentionally or in a reckless manner that was a gross deviation from the standard of conduct a reasonable person would observe in the situation.

The judge denied the jury’s request for a dictionary and informed them that Delaware law does not specifically define “gross deviation.” He told jurors that in the absence of specific legal definition, they must use the “common, ordinary understanding” of the words.

Cpl. Webster testified during the trial that he didn’t intend to kick Lateef Dickerson in the head in Aug. 24, 2013, and was aiming for Mr. Dickerson’s upper body. He also said he feared for the safety of himself and others because Mr. Dickerson reportedly was armed with a gun and was slow to comply with repeated police commands to get on the ground.

Prosecutors say Cpl. Webster acted recklessly and used excessive force.

Police dashcam video shows that Mr. Dickerson had placed his hands on the ground but wasn’t fully prone when Cpl. Webster kicked him.

About 20 people met on the steps of the Kent County Courthouse to conduct a non-violent protest against "bad cops" Monday morning. After a few minutes Capitol Police asked them move their protest to a public sidewalk and Legislative Mall since they apparently lacked the necessary permit. ( Special to The Delaware State News/Gary Emeigh)

About 20 people met on the steps of the Kent County Courthouse to conduct a non-violent protest against “bad cops” Monday morning. After a few minutes Capitol Police asked them move their protest to a public sidewalk and Legislative Mall since they apparently lacked the necessary permit. ( Special to The Delaware State News/Gary Emeigh)

Randall Chase writes for the Associated Press

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