Dawson family lawyer wants McCabe off case

07/01/08 Seán Kinane
WMNF Drive-Time News Tuesday | Listen to this entire show:

The lawyer for the family of a teen shot and killed by St. Petersburg Police says all of the witnesses she has spoken to say the teen was unarmed and she is asking that the State Attorney investigating the shooting be disqualified.

Attorney Maura Kiefer said she has presented five or six witnesses who say that 17-year-old Javon Dawson was unarmed before and while he was shot twice in the back by Officer Terrence Nemeth on June 7. In a motion filed Tuesday morning with the Pinellas County Court, Kiefer said Pinellas-Pasco State Attorney Bernie McCabe has a conflict of interest.

Diop Olugbala is the political action coordinator for the Justice for Javon Dawson committee and said that Kiefer is asking that an independent investigator be assigned to the case.

“The state’s attorney has been using and will most likely continue to use witness testimonials from police officers from the St. Petersburg Police Department, many of whom he is currently working with around 100 other cases in process right now, in trial right now. This represents a conflict of interest, and really you know reveals an incestuous relationship that exists between the state’s attorney and the police department that has no place in the process for justice.”

Pinellas-Pasco State Attorney Bernie McCabe told WMNF that he would not recuse himself and did not consider it a conflict of interest.

“That’s ludicrous. I’ve been doing this for a long time. I’ve investigated a lot of police officer-involved situations. … There’s no case in controversy currently. … I certainly don’t think this lawyer has standing to try to disqualify my office and I’m certainly not going to do it voluntarily.”

Because the investigation is ongoing, McCabe would not discuss what the witnesses told his investigators.

The June shooting occurred during a nighttime graduation party where police were called for noise complaints after 200 youths spilled out of a Masonic lodge and into the street. There were reports of shots being fired into the air.

St. Petersburg Police maintain that Dawson was turned sideways, pointing a gun at Officer Nemeth, when the officer shot him in the back of the shoulder. Dawson continued to turn and flee, according to that account, when Nemeth shot him a second time in the lower back. Dawson collapsed and died in a nearby yard.

Police say a .38-caliber Smith & Wesson revolver with three spent rounds was found near his body. But Olugbala said witnesses contest that account.

“I’ve myself have heard many accounts of what happened that night on June 7th. And I’ve even watched TV interviews on Channel 9 and other major TV networks where people came before the cameras saying that Javon had no gun.”

Attorney Maura Kiefer represented the witnesses as they were interviewed by investigators.

There will be a hearing on Keifer’s motion next Thursday. Keifer told WMNF that if her request is denied, she will ask the governor to issue an executive order to assign a different state attorney to the investigation.

Previous WMNF coverage of Javon Dawson

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