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The New York Times: “Nouman Raja, Ex-Officer, Is Convicted of Manslaughter in Shooting of Black Man in Florida”

A Florida jury on Thursday found a former police officer, Nouman K. Raja, guilty of manslaughter in the fatal shooting of a black man who had been waiting for help on a highway after his car broke down, lawyers for the man’s family said.

One of the lawyers, Benjamin L. Crump, announced on Twitter that Mr. Raja had been found guilty of both counts against him: manslaughter by culpable negligence and attempted first-degree murder with a firearm.

The 2015 killing of the man, Corey Jones, a 31-year-old musician and housing inspector, drew national attention as one in a series of killings of black men by the police. The encounter also highlighted Florida’s so-called Stand Your Ground law, which Mr. Raja’s lawyer had cited in his defense.

[Update: Nouman Raja sentenced to 25 years in fatal shooting of Corey Jones.]

“This verdict is a vindication of the good man that was Corey Jones, and an utter repudiation of a criminal who tried to hide behind a badge,” the lawyers for Mr. Jones’s family said in a statement.

They added: “We see what can happen when prosecutors have the dedication to charge an on-duty law enforcement officer in the murder of an innocent black man, and what can happen when a thoughtful judge rejects a shameless ploy to use Florida’s questionable Stand Your Ground law as a shield against wrongdoing.”

Mr. Crump, part of a four-person legal team, said in an interview on Thursday that after the verdict, Mr. Jones’s extended family went to visit his grave in Boynton Beach, Fla.

He said the guilty verdict against an officer in the fatal shooting of a black person was the “first in many years that I am aware of, and I have been doing this for years,” in the state and around the country. Many officers involved in such shootings, he noted, are not charged or prosecuted, citing three such cases in AlabamaCalifornia and Louisiana.

“It is not even that they are not held accountable,” Mr. Crump said. “They are not even sent to a grand jury.”

After the verdict, David Aronberg, the state attorney for Palm Beach County, said in an interview that the jury began deliberating on Wednesday afternoon and its verdict was announced early Thursday in Circuit Court in the county. He said Mr. Raja had been taken into custody and would be sentenced on April 26. He faces a maximum sentence of life in prison.

The reaction in court “was relatively subdued” after a warning from the judge, Mr. Aronberg said. “Hopefully this will provide a measure of justice and closure” for the victim’s family and the community, he said.

“Hopefully today begins the healing,” Mr. Aronberg added.

Richard G. Lubin, the head of Mr. Raja’s defense team, said in a statement that the team was “devastated by the jury’s verdict.”

“We believe in Nouman Raja’s innocence and we will continue to stand behind him as his case is reviewed by the judge and, if necessary, the appellate courts,” the statement said.

“The truth will always prevail,” Mr. Jones’s father, Clinton Jones Sr., told journalists outside the courthouse, according to The South Florida Sun-Sentinel. “Regardless of how many bad cops” there are, he said, “the truth will always prevail.”

He added: “And this is what happened today: It was the truth that convicted him. It was the truth that brought him to justice. It was the truth that sent him to jail. It was the truth — that gave us justice for Corey.”

Last year, Mr. Raja’s request to have his criminal charges thrown outunder the Stand Your Ground law was denied.

Mr. Raja, an officer with the Palm Beach Gardens Police Department, was on duty in plain clothes on Oct. 18, 2015, when around 3:15 a.m. he approached a vehicle that he said he thought had been abandoned on the side of Interstate 95 in Palm Beach County. His brief exchange with the man he found inside the vehicle, Mr. Jones, was recorded on a phone call Mr. Jones had made seeking roadside assistance.

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Mr. Jones had a legally purchased handgun with him. Mr. Raja has claimed that Mr. Jones pointed it at him, but prosecutors say Mr. Raja fired shots even as Mr. Jones fled. Within moments of making his approach, Mr. Raja had fired six shots and struck Mr. Jones three times, killing him.

The police chief, Stephen J. Stepp, had said in 2015 that as Mr. Raja stepped out of his vehicle, which was unmarked, “he was suddenly confronted by an armed subject.” Mr. Jones’s handgun was recovered on the ground outside his car; the new box it came in was inside, the chief said.

Mr. Raja was fired by the police department within a month, and was charged in June 2016.

The legal aftermath of the death of Mr. Jones, who did not have a criminal record and was a church band member, heightened scrutiny of the Stand Your Ground law. It had earlier drawn controversy in 2012 after George Zimmerman fatally shot Trayvon Martin, an unarmed black teenager. Mr. Zimmerman was eventually acquitted, and the law ultimately did not figure into the defense strategy pursued by his legal team.

“Our hearts go out to all of those who have and will continue to deal with the damaging effects of the tragic death of Corey Jones,” the City of Palm Beach Gardens said in a statement. “This tragedy has impacted everyone from the families to our local community, and beyond.”

View the original article here.