PHILADELPHIA — Three men beaten by Philadelphia police on the hunt for a police killer were acquitted Wednesday of all charges stemming from their arrests.
Jurors who watched a 10-minute news videotape of the violent arrest said it did not influence their verdict on the attempted murder and other charges related to a triple shooting earlier that night. They also found plausible defense lawyers' arguments that three young black men being pursued by police in May 2008 might have been afraid to stop, knowing they could be mistaken for the fugitive police killer.
Four of the 18 police officers who were at the scene were fired. Eight others were disciplined or demoted in the wake of the highly publicized beating, which Mayor Michael Nutter called "67 seconds of seeming chaos out on the streets of Philadelphia."
The defendants' relatives wept and slumped in their seats as the forewoman read the verdict.
Brian Hall, 24, the lone defendant free on bail, pumped his fists and snaked his way through the crowded courtroom for the door. He declined to answer questions about the case.
Co-defendants Dwayne Dyches, 26, and Pete Hopkins Jr., 20, spent more than a year in jail while awaiting trial and were to be released later in the day.
Dyches' relatives demanded an apology from city officials and said they fear reprisals from police. All three men live in Philadelphia and are considering filing federal civil rights suits.
"He's marked. The cops are going to go after him because some of their fellow officers lost their jobs over it," said Charles Dyches, 35, a brother.
Defense lawyers argued that police tried to pin the triple shooting on their clients to justify the mistaken stop and the beating that followed. They said convictions would help in the officers' efforts to get reinstated.
"I think the process of them trying to go to arbitration to get their jobs back has been hindered," said lawyer Mary Maran, who represented Hopkins.
Dyches' relatives acknowledge his resemblance to Eric Floyd, who was captured days later and is awaiting trial in the May 3 bank-robbery death of Sgt. Stephen Liczbinski.
The jury deliberated for less than five hours before acquitting the men.
Assistant District Attorney Carole Meehan Sweeney had asked them not to let the guilty go free because they might find the videotape "disturbing." The jurors, though, showed, little reaction when the tape was played several times during the weeklong trial.
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Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey was attending an event Wednesday afternoon and did not immediately return a message left by The Associated Press.