HOUSTON -- A juror is speaking out about what went on behind closed doors when she and other jurors decided a Bellaire police sergeant was not guilty of aggravated assault in the shooting of Robbie Tolan.
It was a very difficult task, said Ellen Laws. Everyone was tense and stressed.
Laws and 11 others spent a week hearing the evidence in the Jeffrey Cotton trial.
The 10-year veteran officer shot Tolan in the front yard ofTolan's home in the 800 block of Woodstock in Bellaire in December of 2008.
Cotton mistakenly thought Tolan had stolen a car.
After four hours of deliberations, the jury came back with a not guilty verdict late Tuesday afternoon.
It was a tragedy for the Tolan family; it was a tragedy for Sgt. Cotton. It was a tragedy. We all felt for every one of them, she said.
The Cotton case has sparked allegations of racial profiling in Bellaire. Wednesday, protestors marched in front of the Bellaire Police Department, calling for Cotton s job.
If you shoot one more black man in the city of Bellaire in cold blood then your damn city will go up in flames, shouted local activist Quanell X.
Protestors claimed that there is a systemic problem of racial profiling in Bellaire.
Laws said, based on the evidence shown in court, jurors did not believe race played a factor in the shooting. She believes this was a case of an officer defending himself against a man who he thought was an auto theft suspect and could have a gun.
Self-defense is a very strong defense, she said. They weren t there, they didn t hear the evidence, they didn t have the law and the instructions and that s what the jury s job was.
Laws said she wasn t aware of the case until she heard about it in court, but other jurors were familiar with the circumstances.
According to Laws, some of the other jurors live in Bellaire.
Robbie Tolan s uncle was at the protest Wednesday, where he shared his thoughts on the verdict. He said he believes the shooting was the outcome of racial profiling.
The fact that he was black, and even after the parents come out, they didn t listen, they didn t attempt to listen. I don t think a white family would have a problem like that, said Mike Morris. One thing I ve got to say to Sgt. Cotton is, he won the battle, but he won t win the war.
The Tolan family has filed a lawsuit against the City of Bellaire alleging that their civil rights were violated.
Bellaire city officials did not want to comment because of the lawsuit.