Police Abuse

Judge Dismisses Involuntary Manslaughter Charge Against Cop, Says He Should've Been Charged With Murder Instead, Lets Him Go Free

The defense attorney argues double jeopardy protections will prevent prosecutors from retrying the cop on murder charges.



The first Chicago officer put on trial for a fatal shooting in nearly 20 years was found not guilty of involuntary manslaughter by a judge who handed out a direct verdict, meaning he made the decision from the bench before even hearing arguments from the defense. Chicago police officer Dante Servin was charged with involuntary manslaughter after shooting over his shoulder at a group of people behind his car as he was going the wrong way down a one way street after an altercation, killing 22-year-old Rekia Boyd.

The judge, Dennis Porter, ruled that the charge was inappropriate, because it wasn't severe enough. Porter argues Servin should've faced a murder charge. His solution to the prosecutor appearing to give preferential treatment to the cop? To throw out the charges and, apparently, prevent prosecutors from coming back with stiffer charges. The Chicago Tribune reports:

It is easy to say, 'Of course the defendant was reckless. He intentionally shot in the direction of a group of people on the sidewalk. That is really dangerous … and in fact Rekia Boyd was killed. Case closed,' " Porter wrote. "It is easy to think that way, but it is wrong."

That's because Illinois law says that intentionally firing a gun at someone on the street "is an act that is so dangerous it is beyond reckless," Porter wrote. "It is intentional and the crime, if any there be, is first-degree murder."

Porter acknowledged that it was "perhaps even unfortunate" that neither side would have "closure" on whether Servin was justified in opening fire that night, but he said he had no choice under the law but to dismiss the charges.

Servin's defense attorney says the principle of double jeopardy prevents his client from being tried again for the same crime under a different set of charges. Legal experts Think Progress talked to agreed:

"When a motion for directed verdict is made by the defense, the evidence must be considered in the light most favorable to the prosecution," [University of Illinois Director of Trial Advocacy J. Steven] Beckett points out. "What the judge did here appears to be just the opposite!"

(University of Illinois law professor Marareth) Etienne points out several adverse consequences that would result if Porter's understanding of the law prevailed. A defendant charged with involuntary manslaughter could get on the stand and make the very argument Porter now makes: I am not guilty of a crime of recklessness because I did this on purpose. "And by the way my trial has started so double jeopardy. You can't go back and charge me with an intentional killing."

Double jeopardy is the constitutional notion that an individual can't be charged twice for the same offense, and legal experts seemed to agree that double jeopardy means Porter's ruling can't be appealed, and that prosecutors from the same jurisdiction can't file charges a second time around.

Even if Servin is in the clear legally, and it appears that he is, the absence of a conviction is not the same as the absence of culpability. Servin's recklessness, irrespective of how that word can by lawyered into meaning something else, led to the death of a person who was posing no reasonable threat to Servin. Servin was driving the wrong way down a one way street after getting into an off-duty altercation when he fired over his shoulder and behind himself as if he were re-enacting a cop movie.

Now that a judge has let him off on what's commonly called a "technicality," Servin wants his job back. More specifically, he's had a paying police job since being charged with involuntary manslaughter. He's been on desk duty and wants his gun and his uniform and the privilege once more that comes with those things to wander Chicago's streets. It's a widespread attitude that costs the city about $1 million a week.

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  1. Mistakes were made.

  2. What the hell? Is that a blunder or intentional?

    1. Intentional, just like the bumbling of the grand jury case in the Michael Brown shooting.

      1. Bumbling? From what it sounds like, the prosecutor did what prosecutors are supposed to do but never actually do.

        1. In which case? I’m not sure what you are saying.

      2. Intentional, just like the bumbling of the grand jury case in the Michael Brown shooting.

        Don’t you mean the Eric Gardner choking?

        1. No, he’s talking about the Brown case. Regardless of what you thought about Wilson’s guilt or innocence, or Brown himself, the prosecutor clearly threw the case to the grand jury so they wouldn’t indict, which doesn’t exactly happen much when the accused isn’t a cop.

          1. Which is funny since pig is an essential part of a ham sandwich.

    2. How often do DA’s under charge someone for such a crime? This was intentional.

      1. There’s no way he could have predicted the judge would do this, as the post above should have made clear.

        1. She. And the charge seems to be that she was trying to walk the line between pissing off the Fraternal Order of Police and the public, being worried more about her career than justice. I think it backfired much worse than she could have anticipated, although better legal minds might have.

      2. Prosecutors under-charge all the time. It’s called a plea-bargain. This is what I’m wondering if it’s going to come back and bite this judge in the ass, what about all those people who pled guilty to a lesser crime in order to avoid charges on the actual? “My client clearly was not guilty of a theft-by-taking; he had a gun in his pocket. That’s clearly armed robbery, but you can’t go back and charge him now because that would be double jeopardy. But you do have to reverse on the theft-by-taking.”
        (I know, unless the armed robber was a cop, this rule isn’t going to apply to the mundanes. But I sure would like to hear it explained why this rule doesn’t apply to everybody else who copped a plea.)

      3. How often are cop defendants found not guilty because the prosecutor overcharged and could not overcome reasonable doubt?

  3. The mind – it boggles.

  4. Hope the family of the victim bumps that $1 mil/week statistic up a notch.

    1. Why? The taxpayers didn’t kill them. Obviously beating the sheep hasn’t impressed the wolf.

      1. Was this cop on duty when this happened? I can’t tell.

        1. Nope. He was off duty, had been drinking and went to retrieve his gun before confronting the victims.

          He had called in a noise complaint against them, IIRC.

    2. This seems like a case where a wrongful death suit would be against the pig-man personally. He was off duty doing something that there is no plausible justification for anyone to do under any circumstances.

    3. The family’s wrongful death lawsuit was settled in 2013 for estate $4.5 million.

  5. If the cop was off-duty, does that mean there can’t be federal charges for violating constitutional rights under the color of office?

    And maybe someone can explain – what if he were charged with *murder* and the shooting is unjustified, and the jury knows the defendant was *at least* negligent, but there’s evidence of intent as well? There’s no proof beyond a reasonable doubt either of negligence or intent, but since it’s *at least* negligence, that jury can convict of manslaughter as a lesser included offense, right?

    So if they know it’s *at least* negligence, you’d think they could convict, even if there was evidence of a higher level of crime?

    1. Here is how I understand the law. If they charge murder 1 but can only prove manslaughter you get the manslaughter as lesser included. I don’t know how you can through out a lesser charge because the actual crime was a higher offense. Dumb.

      1. Throw. Sorry everybody.

    2. Simple Justice has a blogpost on this. According to him, the mens rea requirements are different for the two crimes, and as such the the involuntary manslaughter offense isn’t an included (lesser) offense of murder. At least in Illinois.

      His take is that the prosecutor intentionally charged the cop with the wrong offense.

      1. Wait, that would suggest that if he were charged with murder, but the evidence shows negligence rather than intent, he’d *also* be entitled to a complete acquittal – unless there’s some other form of lesser included homicide below murder.

        Sorry, I may be missing something.

        1. So say the defendant is charged with murder, and it’s proved the defendant committed an unlawful killing. There’s some evidence of intent, but not beyond reasonable doubt. There’s some evidence of recklessness, but not beyond reasonable doubt.

          So the defendant walks?

          1. Please read the linked blogpost. I’m not a lawyer; he is. Of course that doesn’t make him right in itself, but he’s certainly more competent in the legal analysis of the case that I am.

            1. I read through his post, and that *seems* to be the implication. You either have to prove intent beyond a reasonable doubt, or prove negligence beyond a reasonable doubt, and negligence and intent are two different things and don’t fully overlap, erge if the evidence is balanced between evidence of intent and evidence of negligence, you can’t convict beyond a reasonable doubt of either murder *or* manslaughter.

              They acknowledged that there were some people who disagreed with them!

              1. erge = ergo

              2. and negligence and intent are two different things and don’t fully overlap

                The point is (or seems to be) that according to Illinois law, they don’t overlap at all. I.e. if you want to prosecute based on negligence, and the evidence — as interpreted by the law — points to intent, then you (or even the jury) can’t find the defendant guilty as charged. The law (in Illinois) simply doesn’t allow it. If you prosecute based on intent, and the evidence — as interpreted by the law — points to negligence, then again, the defendant can’t be found guilty as charged. Which means that the prosecutor has to be on the (legal) ball when decides under which statute to prosecute: can’t take a shotgun approach, at least not in Illinois. Apparently in Texas the culpability for a higher offence implies by law culpability for a lesser offense, so — presumably — the whole issue wouldn’t have been an issue in Texas. But this case was in Illinois, not in Texas.

                1. So…Texas is more enlightened?

                  But we already knew that.

                  1. I don’t know how you can say Texas is more enlightened. The idea is not to let the prosecutor “shoot the moon” and let the jury decide for as much as he can get; Texas sounds more corrupt in that regard. And with Texas penchant for the death sentence (aka, state-sanctioned murder) that is why the state executes so many. Illinois law is basically saying “if the prosecutor doesn’t know what he’s doing, he doesn’t get to have the jury decide what he should have done.

                    Naturally, Illinois “justice” finds a way to corrupt its system anyway. The judge apparently felt he couldn’t convince jurors that the person was under-charged.

                    Still, I would like to know where the “unlawful use of a weapon” charges are. I assume at least one shot was fired, and there should be as many “unlawful use” charges as there are shots fired. That’s they way a citizen would be charged. But a state goon apparently gets treated like a human being and the rest of us get treated like untermensch.

                    1. My Texas joke was (a) tongue in cheek and (b) was meant to allude to its economic as well as justice policies vis-a-vis Illinois.

                      Of course prosecutors should pay a penalty for overcharging, but it should be through fine or loss of office, not by punishing the victim and turning a criminal loose on the community.

  6. So being a cop means you can live your life like you are playing Grand Theft Auto – with no more consequences than a video game.

    1. Fewer, actually, it’s not like they’ll be an escalating stars count as you misbehave.

    2. I always get killed when I play GTA. Then give up because video games are boring as shit.

    3. Do they lynch people in Grand Theft Auto?

  7. he said he had no choice under the law but to dismiss the charges.

    Shouldn’t this have been addressed prior to trial? This reeks of intentional fix. The prosecutor and judge should both be disbarred.

    1. Shouldn’t this have been addressed prior to trial?
      The prosecutor was the one who under-charged, is he going to object to his own motion? Defense sure as hell isn’t going to object to the prosecutor messing up and giving his client a get-out-of-jail-free card. Anybody with half a brain now that’s ever charged (in Illinois) with negligent or involuntary is now going to take the stand and testify that they fully intended to commit murder, and they get to go free. Or they will if this precedent stands up and is applied to more than just cops.

  8. “shooting over his shoulder at a group of people behind his car as he was going the wrong way down a one way street “

    I blame Hollywood

  9. This is the greatest con I’ve ever heard of. You undercharge the cop in such a way that the judge can’t convict even though the crime he committed was actually worse than what he was charged with, then the cop gets off Scot free (a term I just realized is vaguely racist) because you can’t try him a second time as it would be double jeopardy.

    Brilliantly evil. This prosecutor is like a Bond villain.

    1. This seems like a really dumb loophole. If the judge thought the charge was inappropriate, and it should have been a different one, it seems like something should have been done at the beginning of the trial to change that.

      1. Or that the charges should be adjusted. It’s not like he was acquitted by a jury.

        1. It was a bench trial anyway.

          1. Because the defendant knew his odds were much better that way.

    2. “Scot free (a term I just realized is vaguely racist) “


    3. As brilliant as Stromberg? Drax? Kristatos? Karmal Khan?

    4. The typical approach is to OVERcharge. Now they can undercharge, too.

      If I fired a weapon into a crowd, I’m sure the prosecutor would just by pure happenstance get lucky and file the exact correct charges.

      1. Yeah, the Boston Bomber was facing thirty charges. I’m guessing they even threw in “littering” and “loitering” and “creating excessive noise” just in case the jury couldn’t find on more serious charges.

        1. That’s not what I meant by overcharge. This Chicago off-duty cop had a few other charges filed against him for the incident, but I don’t know what became of them.

          What I meant was akin to the George Zimmerman thing where the prosecutor charged Zimmerman with a more severe offense because he didn’t want to charge him in the first place but later charged him due to media pressure. He overcharged knowing the jury could not actually convict of said charge.

  10. Imagine if we had a legal system where the appropriateness of a charge was determined by, oh I don’t know, a panel of citizens who are peers to the defendant.

    That way consensus can be built, making the decision to convict or acquit more assuring than some jackass in robe’s signature.

    1. The defendant chose a bench trial.

      1. Because he knew his odds were better than way.

        1. I liked the rich humor of a judge saying that he had no choice to turn the guy loose because as a matter of law firing a gun into a crowd goes beyond “reckless” and therefore the cop cannot be charged as such. If this law is so clear that there’s no wiggle room to find a differing interpretation of the statute, it’s rather fortuitous for the defendant that this is the only law in the history of the planet that is so crystal clear.

          1. That’s the beauty of a case law system, eventually you amass enough cases where there is precedence for whatever outcome you want. Therefore, those administering the law can get their way whenever they want it.; they’re smart enough to lose a few to create plausible deniability.

  11. It’s crap like this that prompts me to question my opposition to private prosecutions.

    1. I think private prosecutions in public courts could work quite well. Probably would want to have a grand jury system to filter out completely frivolous stuff. If you can hire a lawyer and sue anyone you want, why not hire a lawyer to prosecute anyone you want if you can convince a judge or grand jury that the charges have some merit?

      1. Be careful what you wish for. If you think leaving juries with more discretion is a good idea, remember that there’s a good chance a majority of these idiots are the same idiots who elected Bush twice and Obama twice. Reasoning ain’t their strong suit.

        1. Well, the GJ would at least provide some filter about frivolous cases. I haven’t spent a ton of time thinking it through, so I may be missing something.

  12. “Now that a judge has let him off on what’s commonly called a “technicality,” Servin wants his job back.”

    Sounds like a good idea to me. I say give him his gun and badge back the assign him to patrol Judges neighborhood.

    1. Send him to patrol Khartoum while wearing a “Mohammed is a sheep molester” T-shirt.

      1. I want the judge to live with his decision, not the people of Sudan.

        1. Send the Judge to Khartoum doing a touring exhibit called “Piss be Upon Him,” showing a picture of Mohammad in a jar of urine.

  13. lemme guess.. the judge is a former prosecutor and former cop.

  14. Asking for his job back is really amazingly shameless. After the judge basically said that he should be on trial for 1st degree murder. More reason to believe that it was a very deliberate fix and the pig asshole murderer guy knew it.

  15. Just another example of fytw

  16. Didn’t the pig who shot the dude 8 times in the back a couple weeks ago get charged with manslaughter?

    Amazing how prosecutors just can’t seem to file the proper charges when a goonagent of the state is charged.

  17. From Tribune article:

    Servin’s attorneys said he was in fear for his life after Antonio Cross, one of the four, pulled an object from his waistband, pointed it at Servin and ran toward his car. But police found only a cellphone.

    He feared that he might be photographed shooting a gun into a crowd which would end his life after the conviction.

  18. Cook County State’s Attorney is going to get challenged.


  19. the absence of a conviction is not the same as the absence of culpability.

    The city settled 4.5 million to the dead woman’s estate.

    I find it amazing that the city would cover this since the goon was off-duty at the time. THAT is why police act the way they act – because they get to be treated as if they are on-duty 24/7, they have no idea what off-duty even means.

    1. Maybe the city’s involvement could get us closer to establishing state action?

  20. What if this murderous fuck’s victim was from, say, Texas? Have him extradited, charged with first-degree murder, and sentenced to death.


  21. Despite knowing that Antonio Cross, the guy he originally was shooting at only had a gun in his hand and despite knowing that he had just luckily gotten away with shooting an innocent bystander in the back of the head and killing them. Officer Servin had this to say about the verdict.

    “Any reasonable person, any police officer especially, would’ve reacted in the exact same manner that I reacted,” he said. “I’m glad to be alive. I saved my life that night. I’m glad that I’m not a police death statistic. Antonio Cross is a would-be cop killer.”

    Source: http://www.nbcchicago.com/news…..93621.html

    1. Wow. Just wow. I have no intelligent response to this.

  22. More proof that cops, lawyers and judges are mostly lined up together on the other side of the ‘thin blue lie[sic]’

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