Panama City News Herald: “Fired Florida cop guilty of manslaughter, attempted first-degree murder in 2015 shooting of motorist”

Raja was taken into custody right away. He faces up to life in prison.

A Palm Beach County jury has convicted former Palm Beach Gardens police officer Norman Raja, as charged, of armed manslaughter and first degree attempted murder in the October 2015 shooting death of 31-year-old stranded motorist Corey Jones.

Raja was taken into custody right away. He faces up to life in prison and a minimum of 25 years. Sentencing is April 26.

Jones’ family formed a prayer circle outside the courtroom.

His brother C.J., his grandfather, Bishop Sylvester Banks and other family members thanked God for the verdict, prayed for Nouman Raja and his family and thanked prosecutors. “We got the victory. Praise God!” Banks said.

State Attorney David Aronberg thanked community and business leaders for their trust in his office over the 3½ years since Jones was killed.

“This is a bittersweet day because nothing can bring Corey Jones back,” Aronberg said. “Hopefully this verdict will show there’s equal justice in Palm Beach County.”

Aronberg also called Raja an “aberration” and said, “The noble profession of law enforcement should not be tarnished by any one individual.”

Outside the courthouse, Corey Jones’ father said his family is “happy and sad at the same time.”

“I just thank God that the truth caught up with him,” Clinton Jones Sr. said. “It was a long process, but we endured and today we have justice.”

Raja had been on house arrest and $250,000 bond since his June 2016 arrest.

Palm Beach County State Attorney Dave Aronberg charged Raja after a grand jury deemed the shooting unjustified.

The verdict ends five hours of deliberation that began Wednesday afternoon.

Before they went home for the day, jurors asked to watch a statement Raja gave to investigators in the hours after the shooting.

Raja, 41, told investigators he shot Jones in self-defense after Jones pointed a gun at him.

But prosecutors say discrepancies in Raja’s videotaped statement, along with an audio recording of the confrontation from Jones’ roadside assistance call, proved Raja was lying.

Raja did not take the stand in his own defense during the week-long trial.

Instead, his defense team called four expert witnesses.

Thursday’s verdict closes part of the criminal chapter in Raja’s case, but a wrongful death suit against him and Palm Beach Gardens from Jones’ family is still open.

Lawyers in that case had agreed to stall the lawsuit until the criminal case was decided.

Pastor J.R. Thicklin, head of the Palm Beach County Clergy Alliance, said the guilty verdict restores confidence in the black community.

“It sends a message to Florida. It’s been 26 years since a cop on active duty has been brought up on charges. This will be somewhat of confidence restoration in the belief that the system can be fair and unbiased.

He said the verdict also underlines how the civil rights community organized to protest “in a very dignified way in a very difficult case.”

Besides the verdict, Thicklin noted that there are now relationships with law enforcement that did not exist prior to Brown’s death.

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