Activists in North Carolina are breathing a sigh of relief after prosecutors decided to drop the charges stemming from the August 2017 destruction of a Confederate statue in Durham.
According to The Herald Sun, the decision to dismiss the charges against the remaining five people came after a trial in which a judge acquitted one defendant and threw out the charges against two others after the prosecutor presented all of the evidence in the case.
The judge said District Attorney Roger Echols failed to make his case that the defendants were guilty of three misdemeanors, including injury to real property, defacing a public building or monument and conspiracy to deface a public building or monument.
“The court finds the state has failed to identify who the perpetrator was. Furthermore, the court has noted there is no evidence of a conspiracy,” District Court Judge Fred Battaglia said.
Though the prosecutor argued “acts of vandalism, regardless of noble intent, are still a violation of law,” he admitted that “for my office to continue to take these cases to trial based on the same evidence would be a misuse of state resources.”
Initially, 12 defendants were charged in connection with toppling the statue last year. Although the protest was caught on camera, the prosecutor’s office had a difficult time proving exactly who was involved in the incident.
In an interview with The Root, T. Greg Doucette, a Durham criminal-defense attorney, said the outcome was not only morally just but also exposed the bias of the city’s police department.
“They spent so much time charging people rather than gathering evidence, that 100 percent of the charges they filed have now been dismissed,” he said. “To have a judge dismiss two cases at the close of the government’s case—before the defense even presents anything—is surprising.”
Doucette added, “To then find a third not guilty outright, after a full trial, is astonishing. Especially with how much video was available. It reflects a near-total absence of a substantive investigation. These were impulse charges to satisfy public pressure.”
Activist Takiyah Thompson, who was one of the people charged with tearing down the statue, said it needed to be removed.
“I’m tired of white supremacy keeping its foot on my neck and the necks of people who look like me,” she said last August. “That statue glorifies the conditions that oppressed people live in, and it had to go.”