Investigation: ‘New video’ from 2017 officer-involved shooting was given to Hinds DA’s office a year ago

Court records show attorney used video to argue against aggravated assault charges in related case
Updated: Oct. 23, 2020 at 8:31 PM CDT
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JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - Surveillance video touted this week as “new evidence” in a 2017 officer-involved shooting case has actually been in the possession of the Hinds County District Attorney’s Office since at least October of last year, when it was used in a related case to prove the defendant was not armed, according to a 3 On Your Side review of court documents.

The seventeen-second video clip, which showed then-23-year-old Devon Modacure getting shot by a Jackson police officer while running away, appears to contradict what police later told investigators in an internal JPD investigation, according to records obtained by 3 On Your Side.

Hinds County Circuit Court filings show that clip was used in a defense motion to dismiss charges against Modacure following the officer-involved shooting by then-defense attorney Rhonda Cooper.

“The video clearly depicts that Modacure did not have a firearm in his hand as he ran from the officers and that [Codey] Smith and [Kenneth] Short shot him in the back without cause or provocation,” Cooper wrote in the motion.

Modacure had been charged with two counts of attempted aggravated assault against a law enforcement officer. That case was later remanded.

“The district attorney’s office had the video in October 2019. I don’t know why there was not a presentment represented to the grand jury at that time. The District Attorney’s Office should be doing justice, it should be seeking justice," said Modacure’s current attorney, Carlos Moore.

Cooper’s motion indicated that surveillance video was given to the prosecution -- in this case, assistant district attorney Shaunte Washington, according to the docket report.

Washington, who served as ADA during Robert Shuler Smith’s term as district attorney, continues to work for the office. Smith, who served as Hinds County DA until January of this year, said he was never shown any video in that case.

“Having to deal with all of the law enforcement agencies whose offices are located in Jackson, it certainly could have been a misstep, it certainly could have been an oversight, not intentionally," Smith said. “There are a lot of things going on. At the same time, we may have been getting ready for another trial. There could have been a lot of things that that contributed to not having possession of it or not knowing whether we had possession of it, but certainly, it’s a good thing that that it has been found.”

When Jackson Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba and Hinds County District Attorney Jody Owens announced the video as “new evidence” Thursday, Owens said he hadn’t seen the video before.

He told 3 On Your Side that he didn’t believe Washington’s actions were improper because it wasn’t part of her job to plan or present evidence to a grand jury nor keep track of grand jury results. Because of that, Washington wouldn’t have known the evidence in Modacure’s case would have warranted a new grand jury investigation because she wouldn’t have known the outcome of the case.

Owens said Thursday that the Hinds County Grand Jury no-billed both officers in April 2018, but the video was not shown to those jurors.

3 On Your Side has not found any evidence to suggest the district attorney’s office had the surveillance video at that point, nor is Moore alleging that.

He does, however, believe the district attorney’s office should have acted sooner.

“I believe it’s been a cover up. They thought that people will just gonna let him ride because this man has a history. He’s not a saint. He’s not an angel by any stretch of the imagination, but, at this point, he is somebody’s father: a two year old, six year old, and nine year old," Moore said. "He did not deserve to be shot in the back. He did not deserve to die if he was not committing the crime at that time and when he was shot.”

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