TOWSON, Md. (WJZ)—Murder or self-defense. Those are the choices facing a jury after closing arguments were held Tuesday in the case of a New Jersey police detective who shot a man following a road rage incident last year.
Derek Valcourt has been following the trial and spoke with one of the alternate jurors released from the case.
The jury is still deliberating but if this dismissed alternate juror’s opinion is any indication, it could be good news for the officer on trial.
It was June 8, 2013, when New Jersey police detective Joseph Walker, his wife and kids in their minivan were cut off by a car driven by Anne Arundel County native Joe Harvey and one of his friends. A racial slur-filled road rage episode followed for more than a mile. When it was over, Harvey lay dead on the side of the highway, shot three times.
His family calls it murder.
“I just want justice for my stepson,” said Harvey’s stepmother.
Prosecutors say Walker intentionally pulled his car over and goaded a confrontation so he could avenge his own bruised ego after having been called a racial slur in front of his family—but the defense says Harvey forced Walker’s car off the road and Walker opened fire to protect himself and his family.
“These were two guys that, for one reason or another—whether it was the accident or whether they were racists or whatever—decided they were gonna teach Detective Walker a lesson,” said Joseph Occhipinti, National Police Defense Foundation.
“I don’t want to believe it’s first degree murder,” said dismissed alternate juror Joseph Sole.
Sole says the evidence he heard led him to favor the detective.
“My take on the whole case is that he acted in self defense,” he said.
Of course, the deliberating jury could have very different viewpoints. They’ve been discussing the case behind closed doors since 1:30 p.m. Tuesday. They can decide whether the detective is guilty of first or second degree murder, voluntary manslaughter or not guilty on all charges.
If convicted of first degree murder, Detective Walker faces the possibility of life in prison.
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