The trial of Dover police officer Cpl. Thomas W. Webster IV recessed Monday afternoon with the jury still in deliberations. The panel's verdict came in around 2:30 p.m. Tuesday.
The jury has issued a not guilty verdict in the trial of a Dover police officer accused of assault.
It was announced that the 12 jurors deciding the fate of Cpl. Thomas W. Webster IV had reached a verdict at approximately 2:30 p.m. Tuesday. They deliberated for about five hours on Friday, Dec. 4 and a full day on Monday.
The assault trial of Dover police officer Cpl. Thomas W. Webster IV moved into its second week as jurors continued deliberations throughout the day Monday.
The 12-member panel was sent home for the day just before 4:30 p.m., with Kent County Superior Court Judge Ferris W. Wharton ordering them to reconvene at 9 a.m. Tuesday.
The jurors already had spent more than four hours Friday considering a verdict; they had received the case at about 11:40 a.m. on Dec. 4.
Webster, 41, is accused of snap kicking Lateef Dickerson, then 29, in the head during an incident on Aug. 24, 2013. Police that night were responding to a 911 call about a fight involving several people taking place at the former Hess station on U.S. Route 13.
The officer is being tried on a single count of felony second-degree assault, which, if he were found guilty, could result in a jail term of up to eight years.
At around 11:30 a.m., jurors sent Wharton a note requesting they either be provided a dictionary or that Wharton give them a definition of the term “gross deviation.”
In this context, the term means that the prosecution must show Webster acted with reckless intent when he kicked Dickerson. Defense attorney James E. Liguori has not denied Webster made the kick, but argued his hitting Dickerson in the head was an accident. Testifying on Thursday, Webster said he had intended to kick Dickerson in the torso, but missed.
A defense expert had testified that kicking a suspect in order to gain control is an acceptable police practice, depending on the situation.
Wharton denied the panel’s request for a dictionary, adding the state of Delaware has not set out an explanation of the term.
“We have no specific legal definition,” Wharton said. “You are supposed to use common understanding about what term means.”
Neither Liguori nor prosecuting attorney Danielle Brennan objected to Wharton’s explanation.
The 12 jurors – four alternates were released on Friday – spent less than five minutes in the courtroom before getting back to work.
Several people spent much of the day outside the Kent County Courthouse, carrying signs protesting Webster’s action. Some carried large placards featuring the officer’s booking mugshot and the words, “Guilty” and “Bad cop.” About three dozen more spent the day on benches or standing in common areas of the courthouse, waiting for the trial to resume.
Standing on the courthouse steps following the jury’s dismissal for the day, Edward Johnson, who serves as the Central Branch NAACP’s legal redress officer, reflected on the day.
“I feel like they’re trying to reach the right verdict,” he said. “I think the idea of what a reasonable person would have done in that situation will prevail.”
Pastor Anthony Wallace of Crossroads Christian Church said he was pleased with the large turnout.
“This is a social issue for us and it’s a justice issue that’s pretty clear cut,” he said, referring to Webster’s actions. “There’s not a lot of room for interpretation and it’s also a reflection of a larger problem we’re seeing across the country.”
Addressing the crowd before they dispersed, Central Branch NAACP President La Mar T. Gunn said he expected a similarly large turnout on Tuesday.
With speculation swirling that the long hours of deliberations might be signaling a hung jury, Gunn said the state will have no choice but to try Webster again.
Social and political pressures the community can bring to bear makes it inevitable, he said.
“If we keep on trying, then we will see justice,” he said. “We’re doing things that have never been done before in this state.”