Update (March 7, 2019): Nouman Raja, a former West Palm Beach police officer, has been found guilty of manslaughter and attempted first-degree murder. He killed Black motorist Corey Jones in 2015 after Jones' van broke down.
The Miami Herald reports the convicted murderer, who is set to be sentenced on April 26, must serve a minimum of 25 years and could face up to life in prison.
A jury comprised of four men and two women deliberated for close to five hours for two days before delivering their verdict. Raja is now the first on-duty Florida officer to be convicted for a shooting in 26 years.
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The Sun-Sentinel reports the former police officer did not visibly react at the citing of the conviction. Circuit Judge Joseph Marx ordered Raja to be handcuffed and escorted to Palm Beach County Jail immediately following the verdict.
Raja's wife cursed at reporters, but his attorneys did not offer any remarks.
Supporters of the 31-year-old Jones, however, filled the courthouse with emotion. Nearly 25 of Jones’ family and friends were present, many of whom grew up with him in the Christian faith by way of his ministry family. Jones was expected to perform a drum solo at church the morning of his murder.
The group led a prayer circle outside of the courthouse, sobbing, weeping and shouting praise over the bittersweet victory.
“The sweetest sound was the click of those handcuffs,” said one Jones supporter as Raja was taken to jail.
"Corey has been here," said the victim’s brother, C.J. Jones. "His soul is not here, but he is definitely here in our hearts. He walked us through this."
Original: The trial of the controversial Florida officer who killed a Black motorist in 2015 began Thursday. Nouman Raja is charged with manslaughter and attempted first-degree murder for the death of Corey Jones.
Tuscaloosa News reports jury selection is underway; the trial is expected to last no longer than three weeks. It will be the first trial in 26 years in the state of Florida of an on-duty police officer.
First group of 100 prospective jurors seated in the courtroom for the trial of former officer Nouman Raja. Judge going over ground rules, to begin preliminary questioning. Raja on trial for killing of stranded driver Corey Jones. @CBS12 pic.twitter.com/D3zQzyJWAA— Chuck Weber (@ChuckWeber12) February 21, 2019
Raja's team is attempting to use Florida's "stand your ground" law to clear him of the charges. The controversial law states that anyone with a proper cause to be fearful of danger can use deadly force. The defendant, however, cannot be the aggressor. The law was famously used to defend George Zimmerman during his trial for the killing of Trayvon Martin.
Raja’s team also claim local news outlets have been biased in their reporting, poisoning the jury pool. The lawyers hope to have Judge Joseph Marx move the trial.
Judge Marx is reportedly waiting to see if the six-person jury can be seated appropriately before determining if a move is necessary.
The shooting reportedly occurred in West Palm Beach, Florida, at around 3:15 a.m. when Corey Jones, the 31-year-old victim, pulled over his SUV after experiencing technical difficulties. Nouman Raja, an on-duty officer in plainclothes in an unmarked white van, reportedly drove up the off-ramp and blocked in Jones' SUV.
Raja claimed he told Jones that he was a police officer when he got out of the van. However, Time reports investigators have audio of the incident that proves the officer never identified himself as such, causing Jones to believe he was being robbed.
Raja's sergeant has already testified the officer was instructed to always wear his "police" vest before approaching a suspect. During the investigation, the garment was found in the van.
The officer said Jones pulled out a gun, ran down the off-ramp and pointed his gun at him again.
On the audio recording, Jones can be heard calmly responding to Raja, seeming to believe the conversation the officer was having with a tow truck company on his phone was directed toward him. Jones can reportedly be heard attempting to understand what Raja is saying to the towing firm and also telling the officer he doesn't need help.
Following this exchange, Raja can be heard abruptly and profanely instructing Jones to put his hands up. Jones says, "Hold on!" and Raja repeats his instruction. It is believed at this point, Jones assumed he was being robbed and pulled out his firearm to defend himself.
Raja fired his gun three times at the victim. Less than 10 seconds later, Raja fired his weapon three more times. Jones was determined dead at the scene.
Raja, 41-years-old, has since been fired from his position and could face up to a lifetime in prison if found guilty.
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