Last Thursday, a grand jury indicted three ex-officers from the Jackson Police Department for m*rder in the December 31, 2022 de@th of Mississippi resident Keith Murriel while in police custody. At a press conference on Wednesday, Hinds County District Attorney Jody E. Owens, II, revealed the accusations against ex-police officers Kenya McCarty, Avery Willis, and James Land.
“All three officers have been indicted for homicide,” Owens said. “The District Attorney’s office would like to acknowledge the brave actions of the entire Jackson Police Department. And we do not think the actions of a few represent the bravery of so many.”
According to Owens, both McCarty and Willis have been charged with second-degree m*rder, while Land has been charged with manslaughter. “Ms. McCarty sincerely laments Mr. Murriel’s de@th and has the most sincere condolence for his family and friends,” McCarty’s attorney Francis Springer told ABC News in a statement on Thursday.
“Ms. McCarty doesn’t believe she is guilty of the crime for which she is indicted or of any other crime. She will enter a not-guilty plea.” According to Springer’s interview with ABC News, a court date has not yet been scheduled.
ABC News has attempted to contact Land’s attorney for comment, but has received no response as of this writing. Willis could not be reached for comment despite many efforts. Willis may or may not have hired a counsel.
The indictment provides “a level of comfort” to the family, attorney Daryl Washington said in a statement to ABC News on Thursday. “It’s been an extremely difficult time for the family, knowing that Keith’s death was totally preventable,” Washington said.
“Although the family would much rather have Keith here with them, there is a level of comfort knowing that the officers have been indicted for the egregious crime they committed last December,” he added.
“We know that this is only the first step in a long process, but we are encouraged by the thorough investigation that was conducted and believe the officers will be held fully accountable for their wrongful actions.”
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On Wednesday, the city of Jackson released body camera footage of the incident, which ABC News analyzed. The film appears to show police officers tasing Murriel many times as they attempt to handcuff him. In the audio, Murriel can be heard pleading with the police to stop.
‘The worst thing for the family is hearing Keith telling the officers to stop,’ Washington told ABC News on Thursday. After Murriel’s passing, the Mississippi Bureau of Investigation opened a formal investigation into the circumstances surrounding her de@th.
ABC News has requested a copy of the MBI’s final report and an @utopsy report on Murriel. Jackson City Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba, who had previously urged the MBI to release the video, told reporters that it is “voluminous” and consists of footage from multiple officers’ cameras and other nearby cameras that captured Murriel’s encounter with police.
“We believe that we have seen actions which are excessive, disheartening and tragic,” Lumumba said. Washington claims that Murriel’s relatives have been demanding for months that the MBI reveal the body camera footage, and they finally took legal action in April, charging the cops involved in Murriel’s k!lling with wrongful de@th.
“We chose not to release the video at that time because we did not want to compromise the ongoing investigation,” Lumumba said. “We wanted to make it clear while we were releasing this video that we are on the side of justice and want to see justice take place,” he added.
During his first press conference as Jackson’s new police chief on Wednesday, Joseph Wade expressed his condolences to Murriel’s family and vowed to be open and honest. “We strive at the Jackson Police Department to create community trust. When we fail, we create community distrust,” Wade said, urging the community to continue to support the officers who “put their lives on the line every day.”
The below tweet verifies the news:
Three former Jackson Police Department officers were indicted by a grand jury on homicide charges in the death of Keith Murriel, a Mississippi man who died in police custody. https://t.co/8nRjWvgbsz
— ABC News (@ABC) May 25, 2023
“We at JPD will continue to be transparent and we will continue to have accountability measures in place – not only from the bottom up, but from the top down as we move forward,” he added. The Jackson Police Department has a new temporary chief after James Davis announced his resignation on Friday.
In February, when a police statement said that Murriel’s de@th was the result of a “health emergency,” Lumumba publicly disagreed with Davis’s assessment. Officers from the Jackson Police Department responded to a call for service in the 500 block of E. Beasley Road at around 7:30 p.m. on Saturday, December 31 2022, per a news release issued in January and provided to the local ABC affiliate, WAPT.
“While at the location, officers successfully took an individual into custody who experienced a medical emergency,” JPD said in the release, according to the affiliate. “American Medical Response was summoned to the location to render aid; unfortunately, the individual was pronounced deceased on the scene.”
At a press conference on Wednesday, reporters asked Lumumda if Davis’s resignation had anything to do with the anger over the incident that resulted to Murriel’s de@th. He responded, “no.” “I shared that, you know I had a different take on it, but that had nothing to do with his decision to retire and my decision to accept his retirement,” he added.
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