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‘Fears of a Tainted Jury’: Prosecutors In Second-Degree Murder Trial of Maryland Cop Delays Justice for the Family of Black Man Shot Six Times While He Was Handcuffed

The family of a Black man fatally shot six times by a Maryland police officer received another setback as the jury trial was delayed a day before it was set to begin.

Former Corporal Michael Owen Jr. faces a murder charge after being accused of killing William Green.

“I don’t think there is a word that can truly describe how I feel,” Green’s cousin Nikki Owens told WJLA-TV.

Corporal Michael Owen was charged with second-degree murder in 2020, after shooting Green, 43, who was unarmed while handcuffed inside a police vehicle on Jan. 27, 2020. Owen was the first police officer in Prince George County who was charged with murder for killing someone in the line of duty, according to Reuters.

Michael Owen Jr.
Cpl. Michael Owen Jr. was charged with murder and other offenses in the shooting death of William Green. (Photo: Screengrab/PGPD Twitter)

Owen was scheduled to begin his jury trial on Feb. 6 but prosecutors in the case have filed several motions to Circuit Court Judge Michael Pearson to delay the case. The prosecutors were late to turn over discovery materials related to the case. Prosecutors also claimed they want the trial to take place outside of Prince George County out of “fears of a tainted jury due to media coverage,” The Washington Post reported.

Prosecutors also claimed their use-of-force expert was unable to appear to testify because he suffered a heart attack and would not be healthy enough to give testimony until 2023. Judge Pearson said he would not delay the trial because of the expert’s inability to appear given virtual testimony capabilities.

Judge Pearson expressed frustration with prosecutors’ last minute efforts to delay justice.

“I don’t know how else to say it…but you have dropped the ball,” Pearson said to prosecutors.

Prince George County state’s attorney Aisha Braveboy previously offered Owen a plea deal, but the office would not provide a comment on specific details of the deal with Atlanta Black Star.

The Washington Post reported prosecutors offered Owen the plea deal that would reduce the charges from second-degree murder to voluntary manslaughter after “the discovery of new evidence including Owen’s testimony.”

In Maryland, manslaughter convictions come with a maximum prison sentence of 19 years but time behind bars could be much less. Green’s family told The Washington Post they were “concerned the lesser charge” could make Owen “eligible for parole within a few years.”

“Michael Owen should spend as much time in prison as possible. He’s a danger to society,” Owens said.

The proposed plea deal was ultimately rejected by the court.

This past January the case has crossed its three year anniversary since the night Green was pulled over because he was “suspected of driving under the influence after hitting several cars,” as reported by The New York Times.

When officers approached Green’s car, they reportedly smelled PCP, a mind-altering illegal street drug usually in a white powder. He was handcuffed and placed in the front seat of a police car, a standard protocol for Prince George County police, Atlanta Black Star previously reported.

Owen was reportedly waiting for another officer to arrive on the scene to evaluate Green for drugs when he delivered seven gunshots, striking Green six times.

“An initial police account suggested a struggle preceded the shooting. But after a review of what occurred, investigators concluded that there was ‘no plausible explanation for how Mr. Green could have attempted to control the gun’” of Corporal Owen, The New York Times reported.

A screenshot of cellphone video obtained by WJLA showing Green’s arrest before a fatal shooting (Photo: WJLA)

Cellphone video captured part of the deadly police encounter. Owen and another officer rendered aid to Green before he was taken to a hospital and pronounced dead.

“His life was not in danger. This was not self-defense, this was murder,” said Owens.

Owen was arrested the following day.

Green’s family filed a civil lawsuit against Prince George County for his death at the hands of police. On Sept. 28, 2020, the county agreed to pay Green’s family $20 million in a settlement.

“This is not the way that we want to spend taxpayer dollars, which is why we are doing everything we can to make sure we are never here again,” Prince George County executive Angela Alsobrooks said during a news conference.

“I agree with County Executive Alsobrooks that this historic settlement shows that the Black life of William Green and the Black lives of his grieving mother, son and daughter truly matter,” Green family attorney William H. Murphy told The Washington Post.

The Washington Post reported Owen had a history of alleged excessive force. “In two other 2019 incidents, videos showed Owen with his hands on the necks of people he arrested. One of those incidents came less than a month before Green’s death.”

The judge agreed to delay and there is no set date for the jury trial to begin. The delay could take as long as 10 months, The Washington Post reported.

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