Testimony from Philadelphia police narcotics officer Sergeant Edward Hays, as well as Askia Sabur’s cousin, Shawn Merritt, followed by closing arguments from Assistant District Attorney Carolyn DeLaurentis and Sabur’s defense team, rounded out the final day of the 31 year-old West Philadelphia man’s trial on Friday.
With a quick pat on Sabur’s back, Evan Hughes launched into a lengthy and at times impassioned closing argument for his client.
Hughes’ closing echoed the overarching theme of what Sabur’s trial ultimately became throughout last week: not so much about a young man’s alleged crimes, but the actions of two Philadelphia police officers’ perceived brutality, impunity and apparent willingness to effortlessly lie under oath before a jury to protect their reputation and careers. Hughes also alleged that the reason the two officers pulled up to the corner of Allison Street and Lansdowne Ave that night was purely territorial, and had nothing to do with enforcing the law.
“This is a story about two officers who thought they were above the law. Please, ladies and gentlemen of the jury: send a message that it’s not okay for police to treat people like this.”
As noted in The Declaration’s previous coverage of Sabur’s trial, Larry Krasner and Evan Hughes pointed to numerous inconsistencies in Officers Jimmy Leocal and Donyul Williams’ testimony, including alleged injuries Williams’ sustained during the arrest, as well as constantly changing reasons for why the two officers stopped and approached Sabur and his cousin, Sean Merritt, on the night of September 3rd, 2010.
Merritt alleged that the two police officers rolled up to the corner and stopped, telling the two men to “Get the fuck off our corner.” Merritt stated that he was the individual that replied to the officers with “Fuck that.”
Merritt went on to say that Sabur attempted to deescalate the situation, telling him “It wasn’t worth it.”
Williams and Leocal both testified that it was Sabur that uttered the obscenity and ratcheted up the tension.
Sergeant Edward Hays, a longtime Philadelphia narcotics officer, testified Friday about a bite mark on Officer Williams. Hays’ account, however, gets stranger: this bite mark was not only bleeding, but on his left side and underneath his police vest. This directly contradicts Williams’ own testimony days before, where he alleged the bite mark was on his right side and had not broken the skin.
The only photographic evidence of bite marks on Williams is on his right hand, which the defense characterized as a “fight bite” that may have been sustained when Williams punched Sabur in the mouth. A hospital discharge report did mention a mark on Williams’ side, however it wasn’t clear whether this was an abrasion caused from the officer falling to the concrete after his knee gave out or due to a tussle with Sabur as Leocal repeatedly beat the young man with a baton – at times violating police procedure by striking him in the head.
In the controversial arrest video taken by a bystander that night in West Philadelphia, you can clearly hear Williams exclaim at one point: “He fucking bit me!”
This is what the prosecutor focused on during her closing statement.
“That’s assaulting an officer…I ask you to convict,” DeLaurentis told the jury.
Judge Roger Gordon is expected to charge the jury Tuesday morning and instruct them on a number of legal parameters that factor in to their decision-making in delivering a verdict.
The Declaration will bring you the latest throughout the day as jury deliberation begins.