We still don’t know what happened the night Jamar Clark was killed

RayAnn Hayes, the woman who was somehow injured the night that Jamar Clark was shot to death by Minneapolis police last November, was clearly the most newsworthy participant in today’s news conference at which the NAACP called for a special prosecutor to investigate the killing.

“I never said anything about domestic violence. I never said anything about my boyfriend beating me. I don’t know where that came from,” she’s quoted as telling reporters in the MPR story. “All these stories that are going around are not true.”

Hayes reiterated many of the points that were contained in last week’s exclusive interview with WCCO, but the news conference also left out answers to the same questions that were left out of the TV interview: What accounts for what appear to be variations in her interviews with authorities?

Her account in her interviews matches the one she gave to the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension in February.

But it differs from one she gave the BCA on November 15, according to documents released last week when Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman announced he wasn’t going to press charges against the police officers in the killing.

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As paramedics were putting Hayes in an ambulance, Atty. Freeman said Clark began making a scene, a statement supported by Hayes’ November statement.

hayes_nov_15_2

In that interview, she suggests that she didn’t know Clark, whom she called “a weirdo.”

At today’s news conference, Hayes left little doubt that she knew Clark, saying he “was life, he was energy, he was fun.” She said Clark was a close friend, MPR reported.

And she said Clark told paramedics he was Hayes’ son so that he’d be allowed to ride to the hospital with her.

Asked about the differences today, Hayes denied that her story has changed.

“I don’t care what they say,” the Star Tribune quotes her as saying. “I’m telling you what I’m saying now.”

But there are discrepancies in her story and it does matter, particularly when the most surprising revelation today was that Hayes said she never had a conversation with Freeman.

“I’d never seen Mike Freeman until I saw him on the news the other day,” she said (Star Tribune video). “And I still didn’t know who he was.”

Had Freeman taken the case to trial, Hayes would have been his key witness.

Did Freeman have the same questions about conflicting statements? In making his announcement last week, Freeman said he didn’t have enough evidence to take the case to trial. That may or may not be true. A trial would have had some value, if only to allow the direct questioning and cross-examination — out in the open — of everyone involved in the shooting.

After four months, we should at least acknowledge that there are elements of the total story that still don’t add up. A trial could’ve gone a long way to providing the answers an investigation conducted away from the public have thus far failed to provide.

In the vacuum of the investigation, people are left believing whatever version of events they want to believe.

[Update 4:42 p.m.] Atty. Freeman released this statement:

Ms. RayAnn Hayes gave a number of statements about the events surrounding her call to 911 on November 15. In particular, she identified Jamar Clark as her assailant to the paramedics that night. Paramedic Haskell stated, “the female, our patient, says that’s the guy that did this. He did this to me,” referring to Clark. This information was shared with the officers. We are aware that Ms. Hayes also gave statements later that night she was assaulted by Clark, but months later claimed that she was not assaulted by him.

Officers’ actions are based on information they have at the time. Additionally, some civilian witnesses who knew both Ms. Hayes and Clark characterized their relationship as being of a romantic or domestic nature. The investigative materials that we released contain all of the statements and evidence reviewed with respect to this issue and were considered together as a basis for our conclusion.

The prosecutor’s job is to answer the narrow question whether the police officers reacted unreasonably and without justification at the moment they used deadly force. If the answer to this question is that the officers acted reasonably in fear of their lives or lives of others, the prosecutor, under Minnesota Statutes and Supreme Court cases, cannot bring the criminal charges against them.

I am convinced that if one reads the entire record available on-line and applies the mandated legal standard they will agree that no charges can be brought against the police officers.

  • lindblomeagles

    This reminds of CBS’s TV series Cold Case, which ran 7 seasons from 2003 – 2010. In one particular “Cold Case” episode, an Hispanic DA was killed. A teenaged Hispanic male was found guilty for the crime and sentenced to prison. But it turned out at the end of the episode, a crooked police officer killed the DA and framed the child who happened to be near the scene of the crime. Before I get trolled, I’M NOT suggesting the police covered anything up or that Jamar Clark was innocent. What I AM saying is Bob may be right – we might not know what really happened for a long time, similarly like the fictional cases that made Cold Case an interesting TV show to watch.

  • Sam M

    Are we sure a trial would change minds????? Me thinks no.

    • I don’t know if it would change minds or not. I don’t think that’s the value of a trial. Having people on the record, on the spot, and subject to inspection in public is.

      • Sam M

        I agree that would be nice to do I guess I just don’t think we would change much of the narrative…. and it pains me to say that.

  • “In the vacuum created by the investigation, people are left believing whatever version of events they want to believe.”

    That sums it up rather nicely, I think.

  • Jeff

    My understanding is that a prosecutor can’t just willy nilly charge people with crimes unless he or she expects to win. It might help with exposing all the facts but a trial is about charging someone with a crime and determining guilt or innocence.

    • Well, let’s think about that. If your likely witness is telling a story that runs counter to the evidence you the prosecutor used to determine you couldn’t win, I would think that reconciling that would be part of determining whether you could win.

      • Jeff

        I’m no legal person (but I watched actors playing them on TV) but even if he did interview her again, her story has been all over the place and the defense could easily show she’s unreliable.

  • PaulJ

    There must be some legal process that filters eyewitness testimony; or there’d be no check on accusations.

  • krisbrowne42

    I don’t know why there was a choice about a trial – There’s no doubt that the officers pulled the trigger, meaning there was a homicide. The proper process should be 1. Charge, 2. Trial, 3. Acquit if there’s not evidence to convince a jury of a crime. If our criminal justice system is so broken that they refuse to expose officers to the process, maybe nobody should be exposed to it.

    • Kassie

      To be fair, there are lots of people who do not go through the process after killing someone in self-defense. While this case is a lot more gray and I’m not against a trial on this one, I don’t think it is useful to charge every person who kills someone in self-defense. For instance, in the San Bernandino mass shooting, the police officers killed the assailants in a stand-off and no one called for a trial and no one should.

      • krisbrowne42

        Although in the normal arraignment process the individual would be charged, and the decision would go publicly before a judge, who may or may not need quite the same cozy relationship a DA must have with police.

        • Well in a typical case, it’d go to a grand jury. But BLM/NAACP didn’t want that.

  • Kit Donnelly

    I’m shocked by the suggestion that we should charge people with crimes and put them on trial just so the public can feel satisfied that it knows exactly what happened. You understand that putting someone on trial requires charging the person with a crime, putting him in jail unless he can post bail, not offering a plea deal, and forcing the person to pay an attorney tens of thousands of dollars, if not hundreds of thousands, to defend him, right? Are you seriously suggesting that we should put this guy on trial when there isn’t enough evidence even to charge him with a crime (which requires a much lower standard of proof than a conviction)? Even if you had a trial, there would still be unanswered questions. Part of the problem is that Hayes lacks any credibility whatsoever. “I’m telling you what I’m saying now” is code for “I’m making s#&t up so I can have my 10 minutes of fame”. Physical evidence, while more reliable than witness testimony, can be interpreted in different ways. No matter what, there will always be unanswered questions. Given the information we have, there is not a remote chance that the officer would be found guilty beyond a reasonable doubt of any crime. There’s also a thing we value in this country called due process. Part of due process is that you can’t be charged with a crime when there is insufficient evidence to do so. The alternative is what you seem to suggest, which is that we should charge people with crimes and put them on trial whenever the public is angry about something. Thankfully, that’s not how our system works. I’m sorry, but this is by far the worst article I’ve ever read from MPR.

    • kat

      You say there is not enough evidence, but as Bob points out all the evidence is from this investigation that has been proven already to be flawed- the question remains – how do we know what we know?

      • Kit Donnelly

        What’s flawed is Hayes’ credibility. The physical evidence released by the investigators seems to point to the conclusion that Clark tried to grab the officer’s gun. They found his DNA (or fingerprints, not sure which), on the holster. There was no evidence that he was ever handcuffed. No DNA on the inside of the cuffs, no marks on Clark’s wrist. Unlike Hayes, the statements from the paramedics and the officers have been consistent from day 1. You don’t just say, “well, there’s no possibility of getting a conviction here, but let’s charge this guy and put him on trial anyway because that’s what the public wants to have happen.”

        • the irony here is that had it gone to the grand jury, there’s a fair chance that a juror would say, “you’re narrative is based on what she said on November 15. But what about the story she told in February that unravels the foundation of your narrative?”

          And from the evidence provided so far, that would’ve been the first time someone at least ASKED that question.

          • Kit Donnelly

            The grand jury would probably realize that Hayes is an unreliable witness and probably wouldn’t give any weight to what she said or didn’t say. They would look at the physical evidence and the other witness statements, who seem to be much more credible.

          • I think it would have helped had Freeman pre-emptively said that last week.

          • Neil

            That gets at my objection to Freeman’s press conference. I don’t know what happened that night and neither does Mike Freeman. The most honest answer to this all would have been to say exactly that, and because of that we cannot charge the officers. The evidence is too thin and the bar is too high.

        • Tt

          R there always marks when someone is cuffed

          • Kit Donnelly

            Probably not always, but it was a factor the prosecutor considered important. I would guess that more often than not there would be marks. I really don’t know. But there was also no DNA on the inside of the cuffs, which there certainly would have been.

          • KTN

            They don’t put them on loosely.

            Couple that with a struggle, there almost certainly would have been marks.

    • Is it shocking? It depends on whether you think there is enough evidence , and I imagine that hinges on which Hayes narrative you believe. Which do you believe and why?

      • Dan

        Hayes’ narrative(s) only matter to the martyrdom of Jamar Clark. Was he just innocently trying to help his friend into that ambulance? Or were they romantically involved, and he beat her up?

        Regardless of which is true, a paramedic says Clark called him a “p*ssy” and a “b*tch”, that Hayes was his mom, and that he was coming into the ambulance even though Hayes said 1) she didn’t want him in there and 2) he was the one who’d injured her. Video seems to show Clark struggled on the ground with an officer who had incompetently executed a takedown.

        The heart of the case was whether Clark was handcuffed, and whether he’d grabbed for the officer’s gun. Neither, to me, appear to hinge on anything Hayes has said since that night.

      • Kit Donnelly

        In no way does anything hinge on Hayes’ narrative. She is one witness in this case who has proven to be entirely unreliable. The physical evidence and the statements from witnesses who haven’t changed their story at every opportunity point to the conclusion that Clark grabbed for the officers gun and then was shot. That seems to be the short of it. Maybe there are pieces and details of the story we don’t know. All the other stuff about Clark assaulting or not assaulting Hayes, or being threatening towards the paramedics, or whether Hayes and Clark knew each other are secondary details. The most important question is, did Clark reach for the officers gun? If you charge the officer with a crime, the prosecutor has to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Clark did not reach for the gun, because that would constitute a defense to any conceivable charge.If Clark did reach for the gun, or if there is even a reasonable doubt that he didn’t, then the defense wins. Given all the evidence suggesting that he did reach for the gun, the prosecution certainly would lose. But you don’t charge someone with a crime simply because that’s what a vocal portion of the public wants.

        • The case doesn’t hinge on her narrative, but figuring out why what happened that night does. As you (or someone) pointed out, that’s two different things. Let’s assume, for example, that it’s the second interview that’s the truth but the first interview that is what actually happened. That means the cops were given bad information upon which they had no choice but act. From a legal standpoint, is there culpability for giving an untrue statement if it leads to the death of a person?

          • Kit Donnelly

            Regardless of the match or mismatch between what Hayes said during the incident and what actually happened, she wouldn’t be culpable or liable for Clark’s death. Either way, she’s a liar, and now she’s using this incident to promote herself.

    • krisbrowne42

      And yet this is what’s done to many, many non-officers charged with crimes every day. Like I said before, if the justice system isn’t good enough to defend or prosecute everyone, it’s not good enough for anyone.

      • Kit Donnelly

        I don’t think the main problem is with the justice system post-arrest. The problems happen well before that. Once someone is charged with a crime, the system works reasonably well. The biggest issue I see is a lack of funding of public defenders and a reliance by courts (again, because of lack of other funding sources) on fees to pay for court services. I’m an attorney and one area of my practice is criminal defense, so I have some understanding of how things operate once an arrest is made and charges filed. Following the shooting, the system worked exactly like it should have. There was an investigation, the findings were made public, and the prosecutor made a reasonable decision not to charge the officer because, if charges were brought, the defense would easily win on the argument that the officer was acting in self defense. And remember, the defense only needs to create a reasonable doubt. It doesn’t have to prove with certainty that Clark reached for the officer’s gun.

        • KTN

          But we have a system where 95% of people charged never see a trial, they plea (forced or otherwise), and I don’t think a 5% rate is good enough. Today the Court heard arguments in a 6thA case, on whether 14 months between conviction and sentencing was too long. Seems too long to me.

          • Kit Donnelly

            There probably should be more trials. And 14 months between conviction and sentencing is too long. But both of those things are caused largely by a lack of resources on the part of prosecutors and public defenders. Public defenders are incredibly squeezed and they literally do not have the time or resources to take as many cases to trial as there should be. And who does that screw over? Not the people who can afford expensive defense attorneys.

          • Laurie K.

            Public defenders do have incredible workloads, however, they, like all attorneys must listen to their clients. If a client wants to take a case to trial, it goes to trial. No one can “make” a client take a plea, not the judge, not the prosecutor and certainly not his/her attorney.

  • kat

    I have to point out that this story has been out there from the beginning. Black lives matter and justice for Jamar have said this over and over- he wasn’t beating his girlfriend and he wasn’t violent toward the police. This is why Freeman’s decision was dismissed by so many- it absolutely followed the police narrative and took none of the witness statements into account. The witnesses knew a little about who these people were and why they were there, but for some reason no one investigating cared about those facts. What other facts did they decide to leave out?

    • But that doesn’t explain why her initial statements run counter to the narrative either. The question is how are people deciding which narrative is the one to believe?

      • kat

        I see the slight discrepancies in her statements, but the point of all of them is that the police story was assumed- they saw the situation and thought Jamar Clark was an attacker- they justified that assumption by saying he was beating his girlfriend and trying to attack her again in the ambulance. From the beginning, the community has stated this was not the case. This is where racism comes in- the assumption of violence and the dismissal of all the witnesses who know the people involved

        • Maybe. But she’s the key and the discrepancies aren’t slight at all. And she hadn’t talked until last week.

        • KenB

          “the police story was assumed- they saw the situation and thought Jamar Clark was an attacker- they justified that assumption by saying he was beating his girlfriend and trying to attack her again in the ambulance”

          Wasn’t the evidence CA Freeman described that, in their call for police officers, the EMTs reported what they heard from Ms. Hayes?

          • That seems about right. Freeman says the cops actions could only be judged based on what the cops knew at the time.

            From a justice and legal point of view, I get that it couldn’t go to trial. From a “what happened point of view”, if a false statement to police got a guy killed, that seems like something important in this story. We have no mechanism for finding that out now, as near as I can tell.

          • DavidG

            Two possible mechanisms: The federal investigation is ongoing, no? Second, the civil suit being brought by Clark’s family.

            I would guess personnel privacy laws would prevent much of what’s uncovered in the internal affairs investigation from being made public.

        • Kit Donnelly

          Please, racism has nothing to do with this. If you want to go out and find examples of racism by police, it’s pretty easy to do. This is not one of those examples.

  • Dan

    “the most surprising revelation today was that Hayes said she never had a conversation with Freeman”

    Not surprising to me. I don’t think the county DA generally conducts witness interviews. Did he interview any of the other witnesses in the case?

    “Had Freeman taken the case to trial, Hayes would have been his key witness”

    No prosecutor in his right mind would have called her to the stand. A changing story that’s contradicted by other eyewitnesses and by physical evidence, didn’t witness the shooting, claimed to not have even heard the shot. How could she have helped with a conviction? Again not that surprising he didn’t interview her.

    • If you’re deciding whether to take a case like this to trial, and you see conflicting statements that are at the very heart of the case, how do you reconcile them?

      • Dan

        The heart of the case is, did the officer reasonably fear for his or others’ lives?

        Whether Hayes called 911 or not, whether she and Clark were familiar (or more than familiar) or not, whether she was telling the truth when she told those at the scene that he’d caused her injuries or not –none of that would be at the heart of a trial. It’s at the heart of the story, but the court system isn’t a publication.

        Getting the details and the story flushed out would be a side benefit of a trial, but is not a justification to have one.

        • Wouldn’t investigators want to get the details finalized before deciding whether to send it to trial? And particularly in a case like this with the attention it’s received, shouldn’t all the T’s be crossed and the I’s dotted?

          • Kit Donnelly

            There is a months, sometimes years-long process between bringing charges and a trial. During that time, there is extensive discovery by both the prosecutor’s office and the defense to get more information. In most cases, there won’t even be a trial. The prosecutor will offer a plea deal, the defense will negotiate a better deal, and most likely that’s how it will resolve itself. You don’t just go from charges to a trial automatically. And it would be incredibly expensive and time-consuming to demand that a full investigation be done every time a prosecutor is presented with the option of bringing charges against someone. Bringing charges is simply the prosecutor saying “I think this person probably committed a crime.” It’s the time between the arraignment and the trial where the T’s are crossed and the I’s dotted.

  • FWIW, Reg did follow-up stories on April 1 that did share the discussion about the discrepancies. She dismissed them: When questioned again, Hayes said, “I had my own words, I’m telling you what happened, no one beat me.”

    She claims she remembers very little after she hurt her foot.

    “They were telling me at the hospital, I’m under all these painkillers, they’re like, ‘Yeah, he was trying to attack you in the ambulance,’ and for a minute I thought that, you know, because I’m still trying to think off the medication. I don’t take pain pills like that,” Hayes said.

    http://minnesota.cbslocal.com/2016/04/01/rayann-hayes-under-scrutiny/

  • Kurt O

    This case will never be resolved to anyone’s satisfaction in a judicial court, whether criminal or civil. The court of public opinion has taken jurisdiction, and that will only result in a hung jury.

  • Amanda

    What really blows my mind is that we have this political climate where most factions are determined to distrust all incarnations of politicking, yet are so eager to swallow such a piecemeal investigation. I agree that as presented, there are no grounds to bring charges. And there probably never will be! But what good does it do anyone- MPD, Jamar Clark, the community in general- to leave so many ambiguities on the table? Especially with a police force that already does have a reputation for overreaction, to say the very least.

  • steinbeckian

    Hayes’ narrative(s) is a giant flopping red herring. The only question ultimately pertinent to whether Freeman pressed charges was establishing if Clark presented enough of a threat to warrant the use of lethal force. In other words, did he or did he not grab for the gun? And the evidence on that front is inconclusive; DNA does not come exclusively from the hands, after all.

    You ask me on a gut level, and I’ll say I think those cops did what cops do all too often: they went straight to use of force. Not initially lethal, but it clearly escalated quickly. However, on a legal level, the evidence simply does not exist to take those officers to trial and win, and this remains true regardless of which version of Hayes’ story one believes.

  • Christopher

    Once again, this is another case in which the implementation of body cameras for officers would likely have made all the difference in how this case was handled and the public perception of whether the outcome was just.

    For lack of video evidence, many in the community will never feel that justice was delivered here. On the flip side, assuming that the officers’ testimony was true, they will never be fully exonerated in the public eye. Not having good video is a “lose-lose” for the community and law enforcement.