Frame-up Fails: Walker Walks

Walker from his arrest mugshot.

Walker from his arrest mugshot. For him, the nightmare is over.

In Maryland, New Jersey detective Joseph Walker was attacked by a fat, angry thug named Joseph Harvey Jr. Harvey and his friend Adam Pidel charged Walker, despite being warned that Walker was a police officer and would shoot them. They continued, and Walker shot Harvey. Pidel then stopped, but Harvey resumed his charged (and Walker resumed shooting him, scoring two more hits). In all, Walker fired three shots and scored three boiler room hits. Harvey has gone to the place where he can no longer menace any motorists.

And the might of the State of Maryland landed hard on Walker. Police and politicians are hostile to out-of-state cops carrying in the gun-free zone (and murder hot spot) of Baltimore and elsewhere in Maryland. They can’t stop it, because a national law pre-empts them, but they can pull out all the stops to make an example of anyone who takes advantage of the Federal law to cull the native criminal class — as Walker did. And so an ambitious prosecutor mustered an at-all-costs attempt to imprison Walker on first degree murder charges, or anything else that might do the job. That attempt failed before noon today as the jury acquitted Walker on all charges.

Bringin' the hate: Anne Leitess, would-be frame artist.

Bringin’ the hate: Anne Leitess, would-be frame artist.

District Attorney Anne Colt Leitess, who led the attempt to frame Walker, was bitter and angry after the jury rejected her office’s entire case, including multiple fallback arguments and lesser-included offenses her underlings dangled before them to bait a conviction on something, anything. But the jury didn’t bite, and Joe Walker is headed home to his family, while Leitess’s client, Harvey, is still dead. You could argue that that’s the best outcome for society — in both cases.

Race was a factor in Harvey and Pidel’s attack on the Walker family (the two Maryland brutes are white, the Jersey cop and his family black) and seems to have been a factor in Leitess’s relentless pursuit of Walker: even after the trial, she condemned him: “I am concerned that Mr. Walker, as a law enforcement officer, is a very aggressive person,” she told the press in an angry interview, nostrils flaring and lips curling in a contemptuous sneer. She further accused him of “aggressive, threatening behavior” and “hiding behind his badge.” Unlike Harvey and Pidel, Leitess didn’t refer to the Walkers as “niggers,” at least, not in front of the cameras.

Note the message on Harvey's t-shirt. Nuff said.

Note the message on Harvey’s t-shirt. Nuff said.

For example, according to testimony as reported in the media, two bellowed statements from Harvey were, “What’s your fucking problem, nigger?” and, “I’ll fucking kill you, nigger!” The jury may have taken Harvey’s expressed intent into account when asked to judge Walker’s defense of self and family.

Leitess has declined to prosecute Pidel. 

 

A police defense nonprofit complained about Leitess’s and her underlings’ misconduct during the case. Of course, complaining is what nonprofits do, especially when they want to raise money. It’s unlikely that there will be any finding that Leitess’s conduct strayed outside the very broad bonds of what is normal prosecutorial discretion. It’s just tough luck for Joe Walker that he was the ham sandwich du jour.  The Capital Gazette:

[National Police Defense Foundation executive director Joseph] Occhipinti said that in order to get an indictment, [Assistant State’s Attorney Michael] Dunty misrepresented what happened on the night of the shooting.

A prosecutor held responsible for misrepresentation? Occhipinti can ask, but it ain’t gonna happen.

The Baltimore-Washington media were about as angry as Harvey had been, with TV reporters (such as the one that autoplays after an obnoxious ad for the third-rate insurer Hartford, on the Baltimore Sun site) expressing shock and anger that Walker could “just shoot a guy.”(If it wasn’t for The Hartford, we’d include the video, because the guy’s mystified outrage needs to be heard to be believed).  Of course, TV reporters could scarcely be blamed for being ignorant about the case and about self-defense in general: they’re typical of the low-information news consumers who get their news in predigested, inaccurate chunks from their own stations. And the reporters didn’t use the n-word; you gotta give them that.

A CBS Local story is typical, retelling the story in tones that make Walker look like a guilty man who beat a solid rap:

It was June 8, 2013, when 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.

After getting the date right, that’s pretty much the limit of accuracy in this post. Actually, Harvey flipped out because he thought Walker’s minivan cut him off — testimony in the court case agreed on that. The racial slurs all came from Harvey and Pidel (one of them also seems likely to have thrown a bottle at the van). And Harvey and Pidel attacked the Walkers after Walker stopped. “A road rage episode followed.” Subject, verb, but they don’t teach that in J-School these days.

Walker’s conduct is certainly subject to criticism, if for no other reason than that it put him at the mercy of an Ahab of a prosecutor and a Maryland jury — that’s not a position any rational man would reason himself into. In a road rage case, it’s better to let some guy blow off steam in his car and remove yourself from the scene than it is to confront him. And if you’re legally carrying a gun (with or without a badge), you should feel the weight of that firearm as a pull towards the side of restraint and moderation. Had things gone that way, Joe Walker would not have had the scare of his life and a months-long ordeal in the courts. Of course, improving the gene pool by whacking Harvey would have been left to someone else, but this is the classic case where it does not pay you to be the volunteer.

For the best coverage of the case (if spotty because of the lack of public streaming or transcripts) we recommend, as always in self-defense cases, Andrew Branca of the Law of Self-Defense book and blog. He covered this case at Legal Insurrection, where’s he’s part of a crack legal blog team.

UPDATE

This post has been corrected, to eliminate a bonehead error in the first line that made Walker a “Maryland” cop. He is a Jersey cop who came close to being a Maryland <i>con</I> but is now home with his family. Thanks to Joshua in the comments for the correction! -Eds.

27 thoughts on “Frame-up Fails: Walker Walks

  1. Law of Self Defense

    As always, many thanks for the kind words, guys.

    Frankly, I really thought this case would go against Walker–not because I thought he was in the moral wrong, but because Maryland so vigorously enforces its duty-to-retreat law (which–because Maryland–can’t even be found in statute, all their self-defense law is buried in case law).

    A reasonable argument existed that Walker could have simply gotten back in his minivan, put it in reverse, and rolled away from Harvey without having to go to the gun. I was seriously concerned that argument would sink him.

    Because the trial was not televised I didn’t get to see the testimony first hand. Presumably there was something in the testimony of the State’s witnesses (including Harvey’s colleague Pidel) versus what Walker had to say (yes, he took the stand in his own offense defense) that convinced them that the narrative of innocence was the more compelling.

    FYI, as it happens I had the opportunity to talk with numerous NJ LEOs (mostly retired, now) who themselves knew Walker, and without exception they described him as a cool-headed, responsible, non-confrontational police officer. Harvey, of course, had quite the opposite reputation.

    The truth is, in any of the 34 states that are stand-your-ground, this would never have been brought to trial.

    –Andrew, @LawSelfDefense

    1. Hognose Post author

      I was surprised nobody noticed the message on Harvey’s shirt. I’m informed it’s a California skater/surfer clothes line that kind of hints around and doesn’t mind that an undesirable element “also” likes their shirts. Whatever. Fixed the typo on “defense” for ya.

      Of course, do you have rule of law in a nation where the disposition of a case may hang not on the actions of the person, but the jurisdiction in which they take place? One could argue either side of that one, even if he’s not a lawyer, I think.

      The prosecutor (the boss lady, not the guy who argued the case) was fit to be tied in interviews. She wanted this guy’s blood. It’s going to be hard on her little lapdog for the next few days.

  2. Aesop

    Once again demonstrating that the original impetus for gun control in this country going back to 1863 was to keep black people from getting guns and using them in self defense.

    it’s nice to know that the jury was of a post-Reconstruction frame of mind, although clearly D.A. Harpie is still living in a Maryland circa 1840 in her head.

  3. ETA

    Obviously, OJ juries are all over this country now…

    The negro was mad that the White man called him the “n” word. And although he was the only one armed, he claims he was scared for his life. So after he cut the White man off in traffic and they both pull to the side of the road. The White man makes moves towards the negro as the negro moves towards him, When they get so close, the negro whips out his heater on the unarmed White man. Which immediately defuses the situation, as the White man stopped in his tracks. But rather than wait 1-3 minutes for police to arrive, he decides to shoot the unarmed White man. Yes, and after he shoots him once, he takes a brief pause, then, after realizing he only wounded the bad White man in the leg, the good negro fires off two more rounds into bad, baaad whitey’s body – a successful kill.

    A grand jury is asked to consider 2nd degree murder, they bring back a 1st degree murder indictment. Months later, the low intellect OJ jury nullifies everything. Basically claiming that since the White man called the negro the “n” word that he had the right to execute the White man. The negro couldn’t have merely held the White man at gunpoint until police arrived, and as he was supposedly trained to do as affirmative action cop, no. He could just execute him on the street that day. IE: Shoot, pause, shoot, shoot, kill. And to many commentators on this board this is called ’self-defense.’ And the negro, armed to the teeth, yet supposedly scared of the unarmed White man, is the greatest and bravest hero they’ve ever seen.

    Just like with entertaining yourself with the anti-white flick ‘Django Unchained’ – Unarmed White man standing there, looking down the barrel of a gun being held by negro hand. When the White man says something like; ‘you’re not going to kill me are you Django?’ ’Django,’ sucking on a cigar and simply too ‘cool’ to verbally answer, allows his gun to do the talking – and it said; ‘boom-boom!’ After the negro shot and killed the unarmed White man down in cold blood, he was just too ‘cool’ not to talk – and he said something to the effect of; ‘man, I love killing whitey.‘ — And to the White people who believe the nice, sweet negro cop was somehow justified in shooting an unarmed White man three times, they must have really loved that scene.

    And just think if the races were reversed? Gosh, it would be baby Trayvon and the ‘White Hispanic’ all over again. Then and only then would these same people understand true self-defense as murder. But that’s what liberalism IE; Marxism is all about – to live in a world where opposites are true. Truths are lies and lies are truths – and the many have the mentality of an OJ jury.

    1. Aesop

      ETA, have you ever tried breathing through your nose, just for the sake of change?
      Or does the hood get in the way?

  4. joshua

    Sir,

    I think line one “Maryland police detective Joseph Walker” should read, “Maryland: Police detective Joseph Walker” as in a byline or “New Jersey police detective Joseph Walker” as in his agency

  5. Bill T

    Avoidance of a “Road Rage” incident is much to be preferred over the aftermath, either your/your family’s death or a murder trial. Stay in your vehicle, keep it moving (Hard to get to a driver when his vehicle is moving). If the road rager starts throwing things call 911 on your cell phone and prepare to defend yourself in case he gets you stopped before help arrives. Killing someone on the side of the road is next to the last thing you want to do. Getting yourself (or family) killed or wounded is the last.

  6. medic09

    Hognose, would you consider doing a piece of the weapons being used in the current conflict in Gaza? I’m willing to bet there’s some interesting info there.

    1. Bill K

      I’ll second that motion. There’s also an ‘elite Maglan infantry unit’ tasked with tunnel demolitions; they lost 3 soldiers yesterday. Anyone have any updated knowledge of how to handle tunnels since ‘The Tunnels of Cu Chi’?

      1. Y.

        What’d happen if one’d fill a large underground tunnel with a stochiometric mixture of oxygen and some flammable gas and set that off?

        I’m just curious..

        1. Bill K

          Given the IDF videos of tunnel demolitions with flames & smoke shooting from multiple entrances, followed by sudden tunnel collapses into long trenches, I suspect that you’re right, Y, though I know not how.

          But I also read that Qatar has helped Hamas out with tunnel sensor networks, allowing escape and remote detonation of booby traps when the Israelis enter, as well as remote firing options to nearby rocket setups so that the Israeli drones have less success in eliminating rocket squads.

          If you knew that your enemy’s tunnel had modern IR video surveillance, how would you counter it before laying your charges if you wanted to destroy every side-branch?

  7. Jim Scrummy

    As a rule, I stay out of merryland (and DC-both are cesspools) as much as possible, because the laws, rules, regulations and LEOs are against you, the citizen. Northern VA hasn’t gone cesspool yet (except for Arlington and Alexandria), but a stench is starting to develop…

  8. WyomingBound

    A warning/reminder to anyone with a CCW traveling through Marylandistan. You will be tagged as a CCW before or during your traffic stop and treated as a criminal. Our son is a LEO in MD and has warned us of this; we are in the process of moving from this cesspit.

    1. DAN III

      WyomingBound, how’s about some elaboration on your statement “….anyone with a CCW traveling through Marylandistan. You will be tagged as a CCW before or during your traffic stop”.

      I’ve traveled down I-70 through Maryland. I possess a Carry Permit from a Maryland bordering state. Why wasn’t I stopped, in violation of my 4th Amendment rights, when I traveled thru Maryland ? How are the badged thugs identifying carry permit holders as they travel through Maryland ? Please explain how a thug with a badge initiates a traffic stop for any ol’ soul, then somehow identifies the chosen one as having a carry permit, and then treats the accused as a criminal ? BTW….how is a criminal treated ?

      1. Hognose Post author

        In most states your license or permit is linked to your drivers license records. So there are two ways that they can stop a guy and hassle him. First, they can initiate a stop for some reason, same way they always do. To begin with, everybody speeds, so they can stop anybody for speeding, for example. Lots of highway patrols like to tag out of state plates because they are less likely to contest the ticket than locals (not that it matters to the individual cop much… if he has to go to court, that’s often OT). Anyway, once they initiate the stop they plug in the tag number and get flagged that the owner has an LTC. Some MD departments are definitely doing this, and treating all stops of out of state cars so initiated as felony stops.

        Second, more and more PDs are using license plate readers. They COULD set the license plate reader software to alarm any time they have someone where the owner comes back with the LTC flag. I do not KNOW if they are doing this.

        The case that WyomingBound may be thinking of is this one:
        http://tbo.com/list/columns-tjackson/jackson-gun-owner-unarmed-unwelcome-in-maryland-20140112/

        “Ten minutes he’s behind us,” John says. “We weren’t speeding. In fact, lots of other cars were whizzing past.”

        “You know you have a police car behind you, you don’t speed, right?” Kally adds.

        Says John, “We keep wondering, is he going to do something?”

        Finally the patrol car’s emergency lights come on, and it’s almost a relief. Whatever was going on, they’d be able to get it over with now. The officer — from the Transportation Authority Police, as it turns out, Maryland’s version of the New York-New Jersey Port Authority — strolls up, does the license and registration bit, and returns to his car.

        According to Kally and John (but not MTAP, which, pending investigation, could not comment), what happened next went like this:

        Ten minutes later he’s back, and he wants John out of the Expedition. Retreating to the space between the SUV and the unmarked car, the officer orders John to hook his thumbs behind his back and spread his feet. “You own a gun,” the officer says. “Where is it?”

        “At home in my safe,” John answers.

        “Don’t move,” says the officer.

        Now he’s at the passenger’s window. “Your husband owns a gun,” he says. “Where is it?”

        First Kally says, “I don’t know.” Retelling it later she says, “And that’s all I should have said.” Instead, attempting to be helpful, she added, “Maybe in the glove [box]. Maybe in the console. I’m scared of it. I don’t want to have anything to do with it. I might shoot right through my foot.”

        The officer came back to John. “You’re a liar. You’re lying to me. Your family says you have it. Where is the gun? Tell me where it is and we can resolve this right now.”

        That cop was a shitbag, and the other cops with him were shitbags, but the Baltimore tunnel cops are reportedly all shitbags. I think they treated Mr Filippidis and his wife like criminals, with no PC or RAS.

      2. WyomingBound

        Your license plate is linked to your drivers license/vehicle owner data which is linked to your
        CCW data.
        They are not going to stop you for driving within the law, obviously, but you had better be prepared to be harassed if you don’t.
        Traveling through the state, the firearm must be in a locked case or container.
        (Go to handgunlaw dot us for up to date reciprocity on your CCW.)

  9. Friend of Joe's

    I had known Joe Harvey for 20 years, since middle school. We played high school football together. Joe was no angel, but he was not a thug douchebag either. He was a good husband, a devoted father, and a friend that would give the shirt off his own back.
    That picture of Joe above was not taken at some club or on some street corner, but in Cozumel, while Joe was on vacation. If not cropped just to show him, it would show a submarine prop and his close friends and wife. That picture, as presented, is not representative at all of who Joe was.
    There is far more to the story than what made the news. While the spin in anti-gun Maryland, a place that I left for better climes to join the Navy 15 years ago, was to make the story about the evil of guns, that doesn’t mean Walker is blameless in this.
    I read this blog weekly, I really enjoy it, and I will continue to do so. However, this story is far more complicated than presented.

    1. Hognose Post author

      And thanks again for sharing the better crop of the picture. Thanks especially for respecting his wife’s privacy, that was responsible of you and we appreciate that. Whatever the facts of the matter, she and her kids are blameless victims in this.

  10. m1

    I said from the moment I heard of this case,that Detective Joseph Walker was being subjected to a different standard than white cops in similar situations. If Harvey was the off duty cop and Walker was the intoxicated criminal fueled with road rage,and Harvey killed Walker after Walker threatened him the case would’ve ended that night. It amazes me how a Black police officer with a stellar record was treated for killing a larger, racist threatening white criminal. The white criminal who was the aggressor got a Black cop charged with 2nd degree murder upgraded to 1st degree murder,manslaughter,2 firearms charges,1.000,000 bail suspended without pay upon release. Not one person rallied ,marched ,signed petitions for Harvey . Police and DA’s did their job. As for Mr Branca tell me if you believe he was kind to Detective Walker or the racist white criminal Joseph Harvey.

    http://legalinsurrection.com/2013/08/nj-cop-faces-1st-degree-murder-should-have-followed-law-of-self-defense/

    Go to this site you will see all kinds of vitriol for Detective Joseph Walker. You will not see a presumption of innocence for Detective Walker. When you do compare the comments about Detective Walker,to the comments about George Zimmerman,Michael Dunn,Ted Wafer,Officer Darren Wilson.

    1. Hognose Post author

      Yours is the kind of good thoughtful comment we like to get, even weeks late, even though we don’t agree with you entirely. So to begin, thanks for the comment.

      You can’t judge a writer by his commenters, and as I ubderstand Andrew’s point, it was not vilification of Walker as a person, but some parts of his exercise of judgment that (along with a political prosecution) landed him in a prosecutor’s X-Ring. Note that friends of the late Joe Harvey have commented in this thread, too, and their recollection of him is unlike Walker’s recollection of him, but of course they all met him under different circumstances: everyone has someone who loves him.

      A lot of bullshit was generated by this trial (as is always the case in a self-defense trial, whether the shooter’s a cop or not). For example, national news outlets wrote that Walker had an exemplary record, and other outlets wrote that he had been disciplined for excessive force (this second group appears to have been fabricating, but they got their tale on the air and in print).

      Again, Andrew can defend himself, but as I took his point, Walker did not use all possible opportunities to break contact with a hothead, and thereby came awfully close to being a good man in prison. (Andrew has a stack of letters on this point, from unfortunates like Walker who wound up in prison for self-defense). He also was not cognizant of the fact that New Jersey law (and the NJ authorities) might stack up against him, despite his close proximity to the state. (many points in NJ and MD are only a couple hours’ drive away, both states would drop into many Western states together with room to spare).

      Bucking the 30-year trend of overall liberalization in carry laws and use of force laws (including national carry for cops and retirees, a recent development), about six or seven states still make an effort at criminalizing self-defense. NJ is one of them (so is MD, but most states are very lenient on their own cops).

      Was race a factor in Walker’s prosecution? I’m doubtful. Was it a factor in the news coverage? Probably. In reader comments on websites? Sure. There is an element of society as obsessed as any SS-Ahnenerbe genealogy chart maker or any “one-drop” antebellum slaveowner. That element is mostly white, college-educated, urban and liberal, and they see everything through a prism of race. While this describes the media, for example, it also describes the prosecutors who wanted Walker’s scalp.

      I do think Walker might have been convicted if he had not been a cop. Unlikely counterfactual to occur, as NJ bans legal defensive carry for most nonpolice citizens. I also think he would not have been charged (as a cop) in many jurisdictions that would have charged him (had he been a licensed citizen).

      As a philosophical matter, justice should be blind to race qua race, and deal only with questions of act and consequence. But cases are a lot messier than that. You’ll never find a case that is just like NJ v. Walker with the races of the two reversed.

      Also as a philosophical matter, the presumption of innocence is a legal construct that exists in the courtroom, and that some on the fringes of the courtroom (pretrial confinement authorities, the press, etc.) give lip service to. We’re not bound by it, we citizens.

      My personal opinion is that Joseph Walker was not guilty of the crimes charged, but that there was enough of a “colorable argument,” as I understand the term, for the prosecution case, that it wasn’t a complete howler like the case against Zimmerman. Det. Walker could have spared himself a lot of stress, drama, expense (and vitriol), if he’d been more cautious in his encounter with the two punks. (And yeah, I’m violating their “presumption of innocence” by calling them that, but that’s my opinion, and if you don’t want me calling you stuff like that, deal with a tourist from out-of-state making a clumsy turn that cuts you off in some way other than violent confrontation. Harvey started it, persisted in it, and not-very-bright guy that he was died for it. What a sad thing to die for).

      Depending on the person and his resilience factors, a use of force can be nearly as damaging to a righteous victor as it was to the dead assailant. One effect that this whole ordeal is likely to have had for Walker is to erase any sympathy or pity he had for Harvey — which will help Walker process it healthily.

  11. m1

    Thank you for welcoming me to the site,even though this topic is now been over by a month. I appreciate that you’d allow my post to go through. We may disagree on some things,Cool Beans with me. I will point out what I feel are contradictions, double standards, hypocrisy on all levels, especially on racial levels. Could Walker have reversed his vehicle and driven away? Detective Walker tried to get away several times.HARVEY KEPT COMING. That is the point . Harvey engaged in criminal activity, by threatening Walker in an intoxicated racially motivated road rage. Harvey should have went home. Or Harvey should’ve let it go. I’ve been cut off on the highway,splashed etc. I didn’t engage in criminal activity by threatening and pursuing the other person.

    1. Hognose Post author

      I can’t recall having seen that Harvey was intoxicated. I would have thought that they’d have made a big deal about it, if it came up on the normal tox screen during an autopsy. But as you know rules of evidence are weird as hell about what they won’t let come through lest it “prejudice” a jury.

      Also, you said something in your first post that took some time to process. Walker is still suspended after his acquittal? I can understand a personnel policy that suspends an indicted officer. I can’t see one that suspends one a man has been cleared by a jury. Either the law means nothing at all, or Joseph Walker has as clear a record as it gets.

  12. m1

    I hope what your saying isn’t true. He was acquitted 1 month ago. He should be back at work. As I posted elsewhere ,if he can’t get his job back Walker should become a private investigator,executive protector or bounty hunter.

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