Sunday, January 18, 2015

MI:Open Carrier Accused of Concealed Carry in Detroit: Jury Trial, Not Guilty!

Several months ago, Elijah Woody was arrested for carrying a concealed weapon.   Elijah Woody is an active member of an open carry group, Hells Saints, in Detroit, that was featured in an MSNBC video about open carry.  I wrote about Elijah's arrest and allegations of misconduct by the Detroit police officers, all of whom are black, as is Elijah.  The trial ended yesterday, Friday, the 16th of January, 2015.  I found the story riveting.  It makes you appreciate juries.   This is the sort of story that Eric Holder should be concerned with, but will never be investigated by the Department of Justice.   Here is the story of the arrest, legal wrangling, and trial, as told by one of Elijah's attorneys, James Makowski.


On September 13, 2014, Elijah Woody, Jr., a 24 y.o., African-American male, was hanging out chatting with 4-5 friends on the sidewalk of an inner city neighborhood in Detroit. WOODY was open carrying a Glock 23 in a Blackhawk Serpa OWB holster and wearing jeans, a t-shirt, and a light jacket buttoned all the way up.

At approximately 7:50p, a car containing three officers from the Detroit Police Department’s Tactical Response Unit, rounded the corner and approached the group. The TRU officers dress in BDUs and typically act in a paramilitary fashion.

As everyone in Detroit knows but most of us from the suburbs do not, it is common for DPD officers to stop, frisk, demand identification and conduct illegal, unconstitutional searches of any group of black males on public property. If they find anything illegal or questionable they will then lie as to how they learned of the offense.

True to form, the officers stopped the car, jumped out and demanded everyone produce ID. Officer James Taylor went straight to WOODY and asked him “you got some bullshit on you there,” referring to the Glock. WOODY is immediately disarmed, cuffed and placed in the back of the squad car. The officers did not inquire whether he had a CPL until after transporting him to the Detroit Detention Facility, and charging him with the five-year felony of Carrying a Concealed Weapon.

When the police wrote their report they had to come up with a story to justify their encounter with WOODY. The officers claimed they observed the group drinking from red Solo cups and, as they drove up they “smelled the strong odor of burning marijuana” from a moving car about 15’ away (must be some bloodhound genes there). Officer Taylor claimed that when WOODY noticed their approach he “bladed” his body to limit their ability to see his right hip and started “backpedaling.” Taylor claimed that WOODY then turned full face on, lifted the right side of his jacket and exposed the Glock hidden under his jacket, stating he was “open carrying.”

Shortly after the arrest I was contacted and advised about this gross abuse of WOODY’s rights. I reached out to my good friend Terry Johnson, a fellow 2A defense lawyer, to see if he was interested in jointly defending WOODY. He agreed so we took the case.

At the preliminary exam two of the three officers testified and many inconsistencies became evident in their testimony. Despite these obvious falsehoods the judge decided that there was Probable Cause that a crime had been committed and bound the matter over to Wayne County Circuit Court on the felony CCW charge. We flat out refused to engage in plea negotiations and demanded the matter be set for jury trial.

At 4:49p the afternoon before trial the Wayne County Prosecutor filed two Motions in Limine. A Motion in Limine is a pretrial motion generally filed several weeks before trial, used to exclude certain evidence or limit what the jury is allowed to know. The prosecutor sought to exclude part of the dashcam recordings that, to put it mildly, were uncomplimentary about the general public. He also sought an order from the judge PROHIBITING US FROM CLAIMING OPEN CARRY AS A DEFENSE. The judge granted both motions and we were forbidden to explain to the jury that Open Carry differed from Concealed Carry and what the differences were.

At trial the next day Officer Taylor claimed that he decided WOODY had a gun on him based upon his “extensive experience” and the fact he was “blading” his body away. When asked whether he yelled “GUN” or in any way alerted his partners of the presence of a firearm he said no and claimed that he was trying to “deescalate” the situation. Yet when the second officer took the stand, on cross examination he claimed that they had a “code word” to alert the other officers of a gun and that Taylor had given it. Further, the dashcam video showed WOODY being placed in the rear of the squad car with the empty holster clearly visible. The jacket the police claimed was hanging down covering the gun was clearly shown in the video to be buttoned all the way up. It became obvious that the officers had fabricated their story, with jurors shaking their heads in disgust at times. The day ended after the first two officers testified.

The next morning the last officer testified. He was the most truthful, stating that he hadn’t really interacted with WOODY as he was on security overwatch, making sure the other civilians present were not a threat. The prosecution rested and we made a Motion for a Directed Verdict, asking that the judge rule that, as a matter of law, the Defendant could not be found guilty. Since the judge is required to view the evidence in the light most favorable to the non-moving party the motion was denied.

Our first witness testified how the group had been standing around, talking about the upcoming Floyd Meriwether fight that was going to take place that night when the cops drove up, ordered everyone to put their hands up, and directly approached WOODY. The witness firmly stated that WOODY’s gun was not concealed or in any way hidden by a coat.

The WOODY then elected to take the witness stand to testify in his own defense. The arresting officers had not realized that WOODY had pulled out his cell phone and started recording video. While the video only lasted 13 seconds it completely contradicted the police version of the facts, showing that WOODY had his hands up and was 2-3’ away from the nearest person and not moving away. The video cut off as Taylor slapped the phone out of his hand. It was perfectly clear that the cops saw the gun from the moving car and headed directly to WOODY hassle him.

After we rested we again asked the judge allow us to explain in the Jury Instructions that Open Carry is legally recognized and that the jury should be advised of same but we were again denied. The case was sent to the jury at noon. Shortly thereafter the jury asked to see the videos. It took a while to get the videos set up for the jury to review but, five minutes or so after the jury reviewed the videos they came back with a NOT GUILTY verdict.

by attorney James Makowski,
Dearborn, MI
I would like to see the excluded dashcam video.  I have been told that it includes the officers telling Elijah that "you can't educate the dumb n*ggers about open carry" and that the police are paid a bounty of $100 for every gun that they take off of a black man in Detroit, doesn't matter, legal or not.   All of the officers are black.

These are serious allegations, and would explain the strange urgency to exclude that part of the dashcam from the public.   It also seems to be exculpatory "Brady" material that *should* have been included, as it gives a motive for the police to lie about their actions.

If we are to bring the crime ridden black ghettos into the mainstream of society, we have to treat law abiding black people as full citizens.   Showing that being black does not mean a deprivation of their second amendment rights can go a long way in bringing trust in police officers to black neighborhoods.

Just recently, a legally armed black man shot an armed robber in a barbershop in Milwaukee.  The deceased robbery suspect was attempting to hold everyone in the establishment at gunpoint, while searching them.  The potential victim did not wait to be searched.  The legally armed black man was not charged.  It is worth noting that there was at least one other legally armed black man in the barbershop when the crime was attempted.  

©2015 by Dean Weingarten: Permission to share is granted when this notice is included.
Link to Gun Watch


Anonymous said...

Am I correct in assuming FOIA requests have been submitted for the dash-cam video? I can't wait to see it either!

Dean Weingarten said...

I do not know if a FOIA request has been filed, but I know that the defense requested a copy long before the trial.

Anonymous said...


Just finished reading today's Detroit post, had aquestion and couldn't find your email.

Something I don't understand is how could the judge not allow fact that open carry was legal in Detroit to be presented to the jury? Was this just an arbitrary decision by the judge?


Wireless.Phil said...

Lifting your jacket to show a weapon, is not open carry.

Unless the cop is lying.

Taylor claimed that WOODY then turned full face on, lifted the right side of his jacket and exposed the Glock hidden under his jacket, stating he was “open carrying.”

Dean Weingarten said...

According to my sources, the officer was lying. My source said that at the end of the trial, no one, not the prosecutor, not the judge, not the baliff, not the jury or any of the other people in the courtroom believed the police testimony.

The video that was shown (some dashcam and some from Woody's phone) is also said to have shown that Elijah Woody's jacket was completely buttoned up the entire time.

Dean Weingarten said...

Bob, Judges have immense discrestion in their courtroom. They are a co-equal branch of government.

If a person does not like their decisions, they can appeal.

I have heard many judge "horror stories".

Still, as they say, the worst system except for all others.