A police brutality case was declared a mistrial in U.S. District Court in Nashville after a jury could not agree whether two Humphreys County sheriff’s deputies who severely beat an unarmed man were guilty.
After two days of deliberation, six men and six women of the jury came to a standstill on whether James Benjamin “Benji” Lee and Timothy Wayne Hedge crossed a line when they beat, kick and struck Darrin Ring with a metal baton outside his friend’s home in 2011. Six members of the jury believed the officers to be guilty, five believed they were not guilty and one was undecided.
An extraordinarily violent video of the episode—from the police car dashboard camera— went viral shortly after the incident and is widely viewed on YouTube.
The deputies responded to a “shots fired” call and encountered Ring outside his friend’s house.
The defense lawyers for the deputies argued throughout the case that Ring was an initial threat at the incident because he wouldn’t take his hands out of his pocket on that cold, snowy night.
But Ring testified Thursday that he removed his hands from his pockets, then put his hands back in his pockets to pull out the lining to show they were empty. Then he put his hands back in his pockets to put the lining back, and then he placed his hands behind his back.
Ring acknowledged that he was under the influence of marijuana and Xanax at the time of the incident.
The defense lawyers argued Ring was a threat to the officers because he kicked the first officer on the scene, James McCord, in the groin, poked his eye and tried to grab Lee’s weapon. But McCord later testified that he was not sure of his recollection.
Ring testified Thursday that while he was being tackled, he raised his hands to break his fall. After he was tackled, he was pepper-sprayed by Lee.
The prosecution argued during closing statement Friday that “a naked, restrained man lying on the frozen ground” didn’t pose a threat to the officers.
Waverly city policeman Joe Parnell was called for backup to use a stun gun on Ring because deputies are not provided with stun guns. Ring was hit by the stun gun at least five times by Parnell as the other officers repeatedly ordered Ring to roll over on his stomach.
After being tasered, Ring was hit with a metal baton repeatedly by Lee and kicked multiple times by Hedge.
By the time the altercation ended, Ring was shackled and taken to jail, where he remained for six months. The charges against Ring were subsequently dismissed, and he was released.
Lee, Hedge and McCord have been fired from the sheriff’s department, and Parnell has resigned from the Waverly Police Department because of the incident.
“This was not a life and death struggle for the defendants; this was a life and death situation for Darrin Ring,” said Adriana Vieco, an attorney for the Department of Justice, in closing arguments.
“They had no idea (about being recorded) because if they did, we probably wouldn’t be here today,” she said Friday.
The case is rescheduled for May 7.
Amanda Gambill is with the Seigenthaler News Service — MTSU. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org