Pubdate: Mon, 19 May 2008
Source: Atlanta Journal-Constitution (GA)
Copyright: 2008 The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Author: Steve Visser


A Fulton County jury said Monday that it cannot reach a verdict in
charges leveled against an Atlanta police detective for his role in
the police killing of a  92-year-old woman, but it will continue with
a fourth  day of deliberations Tuesday.

Jurors asked for a transcript of the officer's testimony at the
trial. Superior Court Judge Michael Johnson said he would provide the
transcript  Tuesday.

Arthur Bruce Tesler is the only Atlanta police officer to face a jury
over the events that led to the killing  of Kathryn Johnston in a
botched and illegal narcotics  raid on her house two days before
Thanksgiving in 2006.  He is charged with violation of oath of office
for  being party to a lie to get the warrant; lying in an  official
investigation because of the cover-up  afterwards; and false
imprisonment for his  participation in the raid in which he surrounded
the  Johnston house but did not fire his weapon.

The jury of 10 whites and two blacks started deliberating on Thursday

The case, which prompted an outcry from across metro Atlanta, but
particularly in the African-American  community, has racial overtones
because the three  officers are white and Johnston was black.

It also revealed that the Atlanta Police Department routinely has
broken the law to get search warrants,  particularly in drug
operations, a practice that ultimately led to Johnston's death.

Tesler's partners, Gregg Junnier and Jason R. Smith, have both
pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter in  the case. Tesler doesn't
face any homicide charges.

On Friday, the jury asked a question that seemed to bode poorly for
the prosecution in at least one count  in the case. It wanted to know
if it could convict  Tesler of violation of oath of office -- which
carries  a 5-year prison sentence -- because of his illegal acts
after the raid. Johnson instructed the jury that it  could only
consider whether Tesler was guilty of lying  to get the warrant for
that count of the three-count  indictment.

The district attorney's office could have indicted Tesler on multiple
counts of violation of oath of  office but it chose not to, said
William McKenney,  Tesler's lawyer.

McKenney portrayed the 42-year-old Tesler as a relatively new
detective in the Atlanta narcotics  division, who was a victim of its
culture of deceit  despite his admitted participation in the cover-up
of  police wrongdoing.

Johnston's killing shocked metro Atlanta and enraged many in the
African-American community, who complained  that shoddy or
heavy-handed police work in the war on  drugs was a source of abuses,
including surprise raids  on houses where police batter down doors
rather than  knock, planting evidence and questionable arrests.

In a case awash in political and racial overtones, State Sen. Vincent
Fort (D-Atlanta), political  organizer Michael Langford, and political
activist  Markel Hutchins monitored the trial. Hutchins, who is
running against U.S. Rep. John Lewis, led the demand  for police
accountability in Johnston's death.

The case exposed rampant problems in the police department, including
officers who broke the law and  took shortcuts to meet monthly arrest

Both Tesler and other officers testified that each narcotics officer
had to make nine arrests and carry  out two search warrants each month
to keep their jobs.  The desire for a big score is what prompted
Tesler's  team to circumvent the law in getting a search warrant  for
933 Neal St., Junnier testified at Tesler's trial.

A drug dealer they had arrested earlier that day told them there was
a kilo of cocaine at that address. He  said another drug dealer had
the cocaine in a shoebox  there.

Junnier testified that the third partner, Smith, lied to a judge to
get the no-knock warrant by saying  officers had verified the tip by
having an informant  buy drugs at the house for them.

Tesler testified he did not know Smith had perjured himself to get
the no-knock warrant for the northwest  Atlanta home, despite knowing
his partners regularly  broke the law to get warrants and make arrests.

Johnston died after she fired once at the officers when they broke
down her door. She was killed when the  officers filed 39 shots in

Tesler admitted his role in the cover-up of the illegal warrant but
contended he feared for his safety and his  career if didn't assist
his partners.
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