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Legal expert weighs in on Scotty Payne verdict

Posted at 10:42 PM, Dec 12, 2018

OMAHA, Neb. (KMTV) — Modnay afternoon, a jury acquitted former Omaha Police officer Scotty Payne of felony assault charges in the death of Zachary BearHeels.

Following the verdict, Payne broke down in tears and hugged his lawyers.

The jury spent much of its time reviewing surveillance video of the incident at the Bucky's on 60th and Center last June. Video showed Payne using a stun gun repeatedly on BearHeels.

One juror told our content partners at the Omaha World-Herald that three jurors initially voted to convict Payne.

On Wednesday, reporter Maya Saenz spoke to a legal expert on why it's difficult for police officers to ever face trial for in-custody deaths, let alone get convicted.

"They are under special protection under civil law. They have a lot of immunity for the state, and it's very difficult to sue them civilly," said criminal defense attorney Glenn Shapiro. He added that jurors are sympathetic to law enforcement.

"I think they tend to be pro law enforcement. They're more aligned with the state from my experience in trying cases so even though there was the video, I think they gave the officers the benefit of the doubt because there is an ugly side to police work that even within the bounds of the law, it doesn't look good when it's being videotaped," said Shapiro.

Shapiro believes a jury wouldn't have found Payne guilty of a more severe charge due to his law enforcement job.

"I just think they picked a lesser charge because they didn't think the jury might convict him of a homicide - a criminal homicide under those facts. But they definitely felt it was an assault. And he used that weapon to commit that assault," said Shapiro.