HOUSTON-- The chaotic scene captured by the surveillance video looks startlingly familiar.
A young man tumbles to the ground next to a chain link fence, rolls onto his stomach and locks his hands over his head. Uniformed police officers scramble around him, kicking and punching the prone figure lying in the grass. After the gang of officers beat and stomp on the young man, one by one they step away.
What unfolds on the screen has been seen countless times on Houston television, but from a different perspective: The beating of burglary suspect Chad Holley by a group of Houston police officers. Prosecutors say the officers involved would never have faced criminal charges without pictures.
A surveillance camera video showing full color images of police officers beating and kicking a teenaged burglar have aired countless times on Houston television stations. But it turns out a second surveillance camera -- an older model recording black and white images -- also recorded the violent arrest from an opposite perspective, offering a more clear picture of individual acts committed by individual officers. Special prosecutors who tried the case say the second camera was apparently a key in convincing jurors fired HPD Drew Ryser was lying when he testified he never kicked Holley.
Everybody is focused on the color video and the view it gives, but this one actually gives the back view, said Jon Munier, one of the special prosecutors called into the case. So when you say you didn't kick him, and of course the black and white camera shows that you did, you got a problem.
After word of the March 2010 police beating case spread, police and prosecutors hoped to keep the video off of television, worrying that it might trigger civil unrest and prompt the judge overseeing the officers' trials to move the cases to another county. But when copies of the video were released to attorneys who filed a civil lawsuit on Holley's behalf, it quickly leaked to the media.
The black-and-white video didn't go public until it was introduced into evidence in criminal court. Prosecutors played it this week during a split-screen presentation simultaneously showing both the familiar color video and the previously unseen black and white images. They explained that the FBI and NASA had helped clean up the grainy pictures.
On the black and white video, it's from the opposite angle, Munier explained. So you actually see the right hand side of Chad Holley, which is the side that Drew Ryser is predominantly on. So all of the things you can't see in the color video, you have a better perspective on in the black and white video.
In the color video, the cluster of officers closest to the camera blocks much of the view of Ryser. The black and white images capture the arrest from the opposite angle, giving a more clear perspective of his actions.
It focuses your attention on Drew Ryser, said Tommy LaFon, a special prosecutor called into the case.
During their deliberations, jurors sent the judge written questions about Ryser's testimony that he didn't kick Holley. They also asked questions about his assertion that he planted his feet on the ground in a maneuver he had learned playing rugby. The jurors wouldn't talk to reporters after the trial, but they did talk to the prosecutors who said the jury had clearly focused on the kicking moves shown in the black-and-white video.
I believe the black-and-white video clearly shows the kicking action on the part of Drew Ryser, which I think is what made the difference to this jury, said LaFon.
Ryser was the only fired Houston police officer convicted in the case. After the jury found him guilty, he agreed to a plea deal under which he will serve two years of probation.
His partner, Andrew Blomberg, was acquitted last year by an all-white jury. Two other fired officers avoided trials by pleading no contest and agreeing to two years of probation.