A jury was hung over the fate of police officer Jonathan Aledda who is standing trial for the shooting of Arnaldo Rios, a severely autistic man. Rios had escaped from a MACTown treatment facility and was holding a silver toy truck when Aledda is said to have fired on the man. Aledda was charged with attempted manslaughter.
According to testimony heard by the jury, Charles Kinsey stood next to Rios as Aledda fired on him. According to attorneys for Aledda, Aledda believed that Rios was holding Kinsey hostage.
Prosecutors accused Aledda of assuming the situation before he had all the facts. They repeated the mantra: “distance, doubt, and danger” to drive the point home. Prosecutors also pointed out that there was no indication from anyone that the situation was a hostage situation. The term ‘hostage’ was never used by police over the radio.
Aledda testified that while he was appraising the situation, it appeared that Rio was loading a gun when in fact he was simply holding a toy truck.
Police Accountability and Public Relations
The criminal trial comes in the light of strained relations between police officers and the public. Seemingly unwarranted shootings and bizarre or mendacious explanations for the rationale behind such shootings are increasing tension between the public and law enforcement. The trial is an attempt to hold the police officers accountable for drawing and firing their weapon on citizens.
In the case of Rios, police ordered his caretaker, Kinsey to the ground. Kinsey could be seen lying on his back with his arms up while Rios continued to sit on the ground and play with his truck. The officer then fired three shots at Rios one of which hit Kinsey in the leg while the other two missed entirely.
Aledda was charged with two counts of attempted manslaughter and one count of culpable negligence. The jury returned a verdict of not guilty on the lesser charge of culpable negligence and could not reach a unanimous decision concerning the other counts.
The prosecution has yet to decide whether or not it will retry the case.
In this case, their strategy was to accuse Aledda of recklessness in the firing of his weapon but at the same time charge him with attempted manslaughter. In this case, they had to prove culpable negligence which meant that the defendant took some action that could have reasonably led to the death of another person.
However, since Aledda claimed he was attempting to protect others from injury, the prosecution had a difficult time proving beyond a reasonable doubt that Aledda’s actions were sufficiently reckless to rise to the standard of culpable negligence. While the prosecution made a good effort to try this case, it highlights the difficulties in holding police officers responsible for firing their weapon in the line of duty. If anything, it should force lawmakers to clarify the law regarding drawing and firing a weapon.
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