The jury has returned an open verdict at the inquest into the death of Jean Charles de Menezes, whom police mistook for a suicide bomber. It rejected the police account Mr de Menezes was killed lawfully by two officers who shot him seven times at Stockwell Tube in south London. His mother, Maria Otone de Menezes, said she was very happy and felt “reborn” after hearing the verdict. [nb this quote is misleading see below]
The Metropolitan Police said the Brazilian’s death was a tragic mistake. The jury were given the choice of two possible verdicts, but chose to reject the option that Mr Menezes was killed lawfully by the police. Earlier in the inquest they were instructed not to return a verdict of unlawful killing.
The 10 jury members were asked 12 specific questions about whether or not a series of events on 22 July 2005 contributed to the 27-year-old’s death. After a week of deliberations, a majority of eight to two returned an open verdict and said they did not believe officers had shouted “armed police” before opening fire.
They said they believed Mr de Menezes had stood up from his seat before being shot. However they did not believe he had moved towards the first officer to open fire. They also rejected that Mr de Menezes’ innocent behaviour had increased suspicions.
The establishment are making all the right (pre prepared) regretful statements, the family continue to press for some greater accountability-
The de Menezes family have called on the Crown Prosecution Service to re-examine the case to see whether a criminal prosecution can be brought. They are also asking the IPCC to review their inquiry into the death in respect of disciplinary action against police officers and are calling on the Home Secretary to suspend the shoot-to-kill policy. They plan to apply for judicial review of the coroner’s decision not to offer the jury the option of returning a verdict of unlawful killing.
However once denied the unlawful killing verdict this was a fixed result with the open verdict being the worst the jury was meant to consider, in theory they could have returned an unlawful verdict against the coroner’s instructions but whether they knew that we don’t know. The coroner has been adept at stage managing the inquest and if it weren’t for the families protests the withdrawal of their legal team would have remained explained away as a usual and unimportant absence. However let’s drop the spin and see the implications- the police lied in testimony, their narrative of self defence was nonsense. Are we now to let that go with polite statements and regrets and mistakes (WMD’s, ahem?), the deliberate concoction of a story to cover up a murder by macho authoritarian idiots. The War-on-Terror ™ is the gift that keeps on giving.
Update: Statement from the family–
“Today is a very important day for our family and campaign for justice. We have spoken to Jean’s family in Brazil and they like us feel vindicated by the jury’s verdict. The jury’s verdict is a damning indictment of the multiple failures of the police and the lies they told. It is clear from the verdict today that the jury could have gone further had they not been gagged by the Coroner. We maintain that Jean Charles de Menezes was unlawfully killed” – Patricia Armani Da Silva, cousin of Jean Charles on behalf of all of the family.
The family’s legal team argued that evidence heard by the jury provided sufficient grounds for the jury to return unlawful killing (murder) in respect of the two police shooters, C12 and C2 as well unlawful killing (gross negligence manslaughter) in respect of the actions of three of the command team. We also submitted that, in accordance with Article 2 (ECHR) the jury should be permitted to return a meaningful narrative verdict that could identify all the police failings that caused or contributed to the death of Jean Charles de Menezes.
The five legal teams representing supposedly separate interests of the police combined ranks to oppose our submissions, maintain that the evidence only supported a lawful killing or open verdict. The coroner ruled in favour of the police. As a consequence the family sought to challenge the decision, lodging an urgent application at the High Court. Mr Justice Silber considered the challenge in relation to the narrative verdict only but ruled that the coroner had a wide discretion and he would not interfere with his ruling.
The family considered that the coroner had effectively gagged the jury. Any verdict returned by them would have at best limited meaning and would not have the effect of holding the police accountable for any failings. At that stage, having exhausted all legal avenues, the family instructed their legal team to cease participating in the inquest proceedings.
We have lodged grounds to appeal the decision of Mr Justice Silber and our judicial review challenge of the coroner’s decision in respect of unlawful killing remains to be considered.
To date, not one police officer involved has been held personally accountable for failings that led to the death of Jean Charles. In fact the two most senior officers in the command team have been promoted. The law as it stands, effectively provides legal immunity for police officers who shoot innocent people in the cause of protecting the public.
This case raises questions of critical constitutional importance. Should our armed police service be protected from meaningful criticism (let alone criminal sanction) or are the public entitled to go about their day to day business free from the fear that they could be shot dead without warning if mistaken for a suspected terrorist?
More @ Harpymarx
Update2: The BBC quote from Jean Charles mother is rather misleading (more establishment rallying round?) , here is The Independent report-
Responding to the evidence heard at the inquest, Mrs de Menezes, 63, said: “Police officers made a lot of mistakes. There were a lot of failures on their part.
“However, the one who was in command was, in my opinion, the one who made the biggest mistake because she was supposed to be in command of something and whatever she did, she did it wrong.”
Mr de Menezes’s brother, Giovani da Silva, 36, added: “We will carry on fighting because what we want is justice.”
Maria Otone de Menezes, Jean Charles’s mother, thanked the jury and said that she had been “reborn” by the verdict. Her reaction to the decision was read out during a press conference held by De Menezes’s family.
“I am happy with today’s verdict and would like to express my gratitude to the jury,” she said. “Since the coroner ruled out the option of an unlawful verdict, I was sad. But today I feel I have been reborn.”
Mrs de Menezes, who came to England for the inquest but has since returned home to Brazil, told the Press Association in an interview before today’s verdict, that she believed some officers lied to the inquest and called for the resignation of Cressida Dick, the senior policewoman who led the operation that ended in her son’s death.
“After Jean was killed they started telling us lies,” Mrs de Menezes said. “As a mother I would like to really know the truth about why they killed an innocent man. I wanted to be here to see with my own eyes, to hear with my own ears, because I wanted to know everything that happened that day. I wanted to know the truth and we want justice for this case.
“The most difficult thing to hear during the inquest was when the police officer said he shot Jean three times and his colleague shot six times at Jean. Everything that has been said during the inquest has been very difficult for us to hear. But those words were the most difficult. It was really painful.”