HOUSTON --A jury of a half-dozen citizens will return Wednesday morning to continue deliberating the fate of Andrew Blomberg. He’s the first fired Houston police officer charged in the videotaped beating of a teenaged burglar named Chad Holley.
The dramatic video captured by a surveillance camera mounted outside a southwest Houston business shows Holley tumbling over the hood of a patrol car as he fled from a burglary scene. A group of officers runs to the scene, hitting and kicking the suspect on the ground.
Blomberg is involved in the arrest for only four seconds, but what he did in that brief moment is at the core of the case against him. Prosecutors argue the videotape shows Blomberg stomping on Holley as he lay on the ground with his hands behind his head.
But defense attorneys argue that Blomberg kicked Holley’s arm in a sweeping motion because he thought the burglar might have been reaching for a weapon.
Defense lawyer Dick DeGuerin emphasized the split second decision making involved in the arrest, loudly pounding his hand twice on a desk in front of the jury.
"That’s how long Andrew Blomberg was at the side of Chad Holley," DeGuerin told the jury.
Prosecutors argue that Blomberg’s leg slammed down in what’s clearly a stomping motion. They repeatedly told the jury to look at the video, without which both sides agree the case would never have come to trial.
"Your eyes are not blind," prosecutor Eric Bily told the jury. "Use your common sense. Follow the law."
Before closing arguments began, another drama played out in the courtroom when a bailiff announced that a police captain had telephoned and ordered all uniformed HPD officers to leave the courtroom. DeGuerin loudly objected, arguing the order was illegal, but officers shuffled out of court.
Moments later, the head of the police union got into a shouting match with activist Quanell X in the hallway. The activist was angry that the cops were supporting Blomberg, who he referred to as "a criminal." He was also mad that so many officers were inside the courtroom that there was no seating left for anti-HPD activists.
The officers returned to the courtroom a short time later.
Now the judge is trying to figure out who made the phone call telling them to leave, and whether it was a hoax or a misunderstanding.
Blomberg has been charged with official oppression, a misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in prison.
HPD Chief Charles McClelland told reporters outside the courtroom last week that he thought the officers involved should have been charged with more serious crimes. His comment led defense attorneys to ask the judge to find McClelland in contempt of court, but the judge rejected that request.
Blomberg is one of four former officers facing criminal charges in connection with the March 2010 incident. His lawyer has repeatedly argued that Blomberg’s actions must be considered separately from what other officers did.
"We’re not here to defend the other officers; they’ll get their day in court," DeGuerin told the jury. "We’re not here to condemn the other officers; they’ll get their day in court."