On March 21, 2012, off-duty Chicago police officer Dante Servin fired five shots (from an unregistered gun) into a crowd at Douglas Park. One of those shots fatally hit 22-year-old Rekia Boyd in the head. Servin claimed he saw a man in the crowd pull a gun, but no weapon was ever recovered. Boyd died the next day.
This week, the justice system failed Boyd and her family in a way that would almost be funny in its level of fucked-upped-ness if not for the appalling consequences.
On April 20, 2015, Judge Dennis Porter acquitted Servin of all charges. I’m going to enumerate the ways in which this is simply crazy— another drop in the tidal wave of evidence that cops operate inside an absolute bubble of impunity.
1.) Servin did not act recklessly?
Servin was charged with manslaughter— not murder— for his actions. (We’ll get more into the charges in a bit. Spoiler: It gets worse.) The requirement for a manslaughter conviction is that prosecutors must prove that the accused “acted recklessly.” Judge Porter said that while he did not doubt that Servin shot and killed Boyd (!), he didn’t think prosecutors proved he acted “recklessly.”
UM, SERVIN SHOT INTO A CROWD FROM HIS CAR WHILE OFF DUTY. THAT SEEMS PRETTY FUCKING RECKLESS.
2.) Servin did not have to defend himself.
The judge had granted Servin’s request for a “directed verdict.” This essentially means that the defense argued that the prosecutor’s case was so weak that the case should not move forward. According to the blog Prison Culture, a directed verdict is an extremely high standard, and requests are rarely granted.
Except in this case. The motion was granted. Servin didn’t have to put up a defense. He did not testify. Prosecutors did not get the chance to cross-examine him.
3.) Servin wasn’t convicted of manslaughter…because the evidence points to murder?
There is mounting evidence that Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez simply (and perhaps intentionally) tanked this case.
Now remember when I said the judge found that Servin didn’t act “recklessly”? Judge Porter actually found that Servin did not act recklessly because he acted intentionally when he fired into the crowd. That’s not manslaughter; That’s murder. But Alvarez did not charge Servin with murder. In a piece of legal reasoning that pretty much makes my head explode, the judge let Servin walk because he found Servin acted intentionally when he shot and killed Boyd. In other words, evidence points to the fact that he murdered her. So he can’t be convicted of manslaughter. Because of the (alleged) murder.
So was this just a mistake? Did Alvarez undercharge Servin because she honestly thought the police officer committed manslaughter?
That’s what Alvarez maintains. However, that doesn’t jive with what happened in the case of Miguel Adorno in 2010. In circumstances shockingly similar to Servin’s case, as reported by the Daily Kos, Adorno fired a gun into a party in Chicago and hit a bystander in the arm. He was charged and convicted with attempted murder and given a 15-year prison sentence. The prosecuting attorney? Anita Alvarez.
Adorno appealed the charge and conviction, and the State found:
Illinois courts have clearly and consistently held that when a defendant points a firearm in the direction of an intended victim and fires the weapon, he has not acted recklessly. People v. Sipp, 378 Ill. App. 3d 157, 166 (2007). Because defendant knowingly fired his gun in the direction of the crowd, a reckless conduct instruction was not appropriate. We do not find the court abused its discretion in refusing to instruct the jury on reckless conduct…
Furthermore, specific intent to take a human life is a material element of the offense of attempted murder, but the very fact of firing a gun at a person supports the conclusion that the person doing so acted with the intent to kill.
So then what was so different in Adorno’s case? Why was Adorno charged and convicted with murder, while Servin was not?
Well, Adorno wasn’t a cop. Protected by privilege. Sanctioned by the State to fire a gun, kill an innocent young woman, and walk free.
Servin gets his life back with nary a scratch on him. In fact, he is currently in the process of returning to active duty on the force— he’s been on paid desk duty since the events of 2012. The lives of Rekia Boyd’s family, however, will never be the same.
One final kicker: According to the Chicago Tribune, this is the first criminal prosecution of a Chicago police officer in nearly two decades. So I guess this is justice?