Federal Prosecutors grow skeptical during case against troopers involved in death of Ronald Greene
After a months-long investigation into the 2019 Union Parish roadside death of Ronald Greene in State Police custody, federal prosecutors are growing skeptical they can bring a successful civil rights violation case against any of the troopers involved. The problem is video evidence doesn’t seem to show that officers acted “willfully” to hurt Greene. Baton Rouge criminal defense attorney Richard Sprinkle says the real sticking point is the word “willfully”.
Sprinkle says, "The prosecution is going to have to prove that these officers intentionally sought to deprive those rights, privileges, or immunities of Mr. Greene."
Greene died during his arrest, after a high-speed chase through three parishes in May 2019. His family was first told he died in a car crash, but over a year later body cam evidence surfaced showing him being beaten and kicked by troopers. Sprinkle can only speculate on what federal prosecutors are thinking but says it’s certain they don’t want any missteps that could potentially damage the case.
"In this case, there is a lot on the line. There's actually a penalty up to the Federal Death Penalty in this case, because Mr. Greene obviously passed away," says Sprinkle.
An issue in finding troopers “willfully” deprived Greene of his civil rights is any evidence – video or other – that shows they were ‘after' Ronald Greene for a reason, or that they tased or pepper-sprayed him after he was in custody. Sprinkle explains by saying, "I think if prosecutors could find footage of Mr. Greene being pepper-sprayed once he was in custody, (in handcuffs and laying on the ground), then that would certainly be evidence of willful deprivation of rights."
Sprinkle says Greene’s family does not need a federal civil rights charge against the LSP officers to move forward with a civil lawsuit for wrongful death.