UPDATE 3:55 p.m.: Attorneys for Seth Adams’ family and the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s office have both rested their cases in the multi-mullion dollar wrongful death suit against the office and Sgt. Michael Custer, the deputy who shot Adams to death in 2012.
U.S. District Judge Daniel T.K. Hurley is now reading jury instructions to the panel, which will begin deliberating the case after closing arguments Monday.
Before both sides rested Thursday, jurors heard again from Lydia Adams, Seth Adams’ mother.
A day after Hurley castigated the sheriff’s office probe into the shooting as a “disgrace,” Lydia Adams refuted testimony from Sheriff’s Capt. Michael Wallace, who said she’d called him a murderer and told him to contact her lawyer when he called to offer condolences for her son’s death on behalf of the office.
Not only did Wallace never offer any condolences, Lydia Adams said, but the sole purpose of his call was to try to figure out whether the cameras at the A One Stop Garden Shop on Loxahatchee Groves, where Adams lived and worked, had captured the deadly encounter.
Lydia Adams said she was offended when she heard Wallace’s claims, saying she never made the statements he attributed to her.
“I wasn’t even functional. I hadn’t even processed the circumstances, other than that I’d just lost my child,” Lydia Adams said.
Earlier this week, Lydia Adams described, as her husband Richard had for jurors last week, the agonizing hours after they found out their son had been shot and were kept away from him in a chaotic scene at St. Mary’s Hospital moments after he was pronounced dead.
Sheriff’s office attorneys presented a case that featured several experts defense attorneys hope will corroborate for jurors the version of events Custer told investigators. The second to last witness was Custer himself, who on Thursday waxed scientific, quoting Newton’s law of motion twice before he asked jurors to imagine the physical altercation he had with Adams as two dancers moving across a stage.
“You can’t explain it in basic questions, answering yes or no, because so many things are going on at once,” he said.
ORIGINAL POST: Questions over whether Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Sgt. Michael Custer asked to go back over the scene of the accident where he shot Seth Adams five years ago dominated Thursday morning’s cross examination of Custer on the witness stand in a trial for a lawsuit brought against him by Adams’ family.
Custer took the witness stand Wednesday and told jurors, as he told investigators in May 2012, that he was forced to shoot and kill Adams after the 24-year-old choked him, refused his commands to back off, then went to his car and got what Custer thought was a weapon.
Before the start of Custer’s testimony, U.S. District Judge Daniel T.K. Hurley had harsh words for sheriff’s office investigators who probed the officer involved shooting and ultimately deemed Custer’s actions justified. Hurley said investigators failed to complete basic tasks and called the investigation a “disgrace.”
On Thursday, Wallace McCall, an attorney for Richard and Lydia Adams, Seth Adams’ parents, sparred with Custer over the fact that Custer and investigators never performed a walk-through of the shooting scene so that he could explain the sequence of events. Instead, Custer was interviewed two days later in a small interview room.
Custer told McCall that the lead detective never asked him to conduct a walk-through. McCall asked Custer why he didn’t request one.
“I don’t know that its my place to request one,” Custer replied.
Then, Custer said he had asked for a walk-through after speaking to his union lawyer, R.E. King, III. But, Custer added, they’d heard that there could have been a videotape of the entire incident, so at that point they didn’t feel a walk-through was necessary.
McCall tried to get Custer to say that by the time of his interview with investigators on May 18, 2012, two days after the shooting, he knew there had been no video. Custer said that he wasn’t completely sure by then that there was no video, but thought there likely wasn’t. Either way, he said, it was too late.
“The scene was a day and a half old, but at that point a walk-through wasn’t even possible,” Custer said.
“Come on, Sgt. Custer, you know that’s not what that meant,” McCall shot back, prompting an objection from the defense that Hurley sustained.
Custer is still on the stand.
GAVEL TO GAVEL
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