Jury Deliberations Begin Thursday in East Haven Police Trial

By Josh Chapin
|  Monday, Oct 21, 2013  |  Updated 3:16 PM EDT
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Jury Deliberations Begin Thursday in East Haven Police Trial

NBC Connecticut

Jury deliberations begin on Thursday in the case of two East Haven police officers accused of racially profiling Hispanics.

Officers David Cari and Dennis Spaulding face up to 20 years in prison if convicted.

Prosecutors presented 14 witnesses over 15 days of trial and defense attorneys rested on Tuesday without calling a single witness.

Now the fate of the officers is in the hands of a 12-member jury at Hartford District Court

"I think jurors are not prone to just quickly judge police officers. People want to give police officers the benefit of the doubt," said Jim Bergenn, a legal expert.

Bergenn said jurors must be convinced that these East Haven officers knowingly violated the civil rights of Hispanics in 2009.

"It's very special case. It's unusual for the federal government to step in and enforce civil rights against a local police department. That's very unusual, even nationally," he added.

Last year, the FBI stepped in and arrested four East Haven officers for allegedly abusing and intimidating Hispanic immigrants and covering it up.

Legal experts said the cover-up is the most damning evidence the defense.

Father James Manship was arrested in 2009 for videoing officers he said were discriminating against Latinos.

"Arresting a priest  because you think he might be carrying a gun. I mean you gotta have some basis to think that other than I can just say this," Bergenn said.

In 2011, the Department of Justice concluded there was systematic discrimination against Latinos.

Manship told NBC Connecticut that he's waiting for this to be over to comment.

Now the community is waiting for a verdict against these officers.

"This just compounds it. I think they're already in repair mode. The question is whether or not they can influence the ethic all the way down," Bergenn said.

The other two officers arrested are still awaiting sentencing after pleading guilty to reduced charges.

Experts said the jury could be done deliberating before the weekend.

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