State Trooper To Go Before Grand Jury
Posted on 3/29/2006 9:00:22 PM
by Nicole Holt


A grand jury will decide whether to bring charges against an Arkansas state trooper who fatally shot a mentally disabled man who officers thought was a dangerous fugitive from Michigan.
Prosecutor Robin Green made the announcement Tuesday after her office spent two weeks looking into the March 7 shooting of an unarmed Joseph Erin Hamley, 21, after Hamley was approached by officers on U.S. 412 in Benton County.
Hamley was fatally wounded by a shotgun blast fired by state trooper Larry Norman who had responded to a suspected sighting of fugitive Adam Lee Leadford, 18. Leadford was later captured that evening by Springdale police. Leadford was shot and wounded while fleeing officers.
Hamley, who also had cerebral palsy, was shot after officers said he failed to comply with repeated commands to show them his hands. Hamley lay on his back on the ground after officers approached him, but his family said he had a habit of putting his hands in his pockets whenever he got nervous. "This was a difficult decision. We've spent countless hours investigating this case and burning the midnight oil," Green said. "I believe this is the best option for the Hamley family, Trooper Norman and the public."
Circuit Judge David Clinger is to summon a jury panel Thursday.
Sixteen jurors will be asked to decide whether Norman was justified in using deadly force and whether to charge him with a crime. The grand jury, only the second to be impaneled in Benton County since 1980, has no set time for reaching a decision.
Norman, 40, has been a state trooper since 2000 and was a Fayetteville police officer before that for 11 years. He was the last of six officers to arrive at the scene March 7. Hamley was on his back moving his hands near his pockets when Norman fired once from about 25 to 30 yards away, across two lanes of traffic, police said. The other five officers drew their weapons but did not fire.
Norman's attorney, John Everett of Fayetteville, was unavailable for comment Tuesday afternoon, according to his office staff.
Mary Hamley, Hamley's mother, had no comment, except to say she was pleased with how Green was handling the investigation. "It is time for us to let Robin Green do her job, and I respect her," Hamley said as she walked to a neighborhood park frequented by her son.
Grand juries are rare at the state level. Prosecutors usually opt for the quicker, less expensive procedure of filing charges. Grand jury proceedings are conducted in secret.
Green said that as part of her investigation she reviewed photos taken by a motorist that day and police-car video of the shooting.
(Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)