Jurors retrace steps of man shot by British police
British police who killed man believed they had prevented terror attack
British police back "shoot-to-kill" policy despite killing of innocent man
By Nancy Zuckerbrod
LONDON — Jurors weighing evidence in a public inquest into the shooting death of a Brazilian man mistaken for a terrorist cannot find that he was unlawfully killed, a judge said Tuesday.
The man's family immediately asked the High Court to review that directive.
Former High Court Judge Michael Wright, presiding at a coroner's inquest, told jurors that the evidence doesn't justify an unlawful killing verdict in the July 2005 death of 27-year-old Jean Charles de Menezes.
De Menezes, a Brazilian electrician working in London, was shot by police as he sat aboard a subway train a day after terrorists tried to set off bombs in London. The shooting of an unarmed man raised outrage against the police, especially in his native Brazil.
"In directing you that you cannot return a verdict of unlawful killing, I am not saying that nothing went wrong on a police operation which resulted in the killing of an innocent man," Wright said.
But he added that a verdict of unlawful killing could only be considered if jurors could be sure that a serious crime, such as murder or manslaughter, had been committed.
The family of de Menezes released a statement saying they were asking the High Court to review the judge's decision on verdict options.
A coroner's inquest is not a trial. It's required in Britain to establish the facts when someone dies unexpectedly or violently and is supposed to provide more information about what happened than otherwise would be revealed.
Wright said jurors could only return a verdict of lawful killing or an open verdict, meaning they reached no conclusion. They are not allowed to attach any criminal or civil fault to individuals.
No individual has been charged in de Menezes' death. A British court did convict the police force last year of health and safety violations for endangering the public's safety during the shooting. The force was fined 560,000 pounds ($850,000).
Relatives of de Menezes, including his mother, have appeared in court during much of the inquest. A call to a family spokesman was not immediately returned Tuesday.
"I know that your heart will go out to her," the judge said. "But these are emotional reactions, ladies and gentlemen, and you are charged with returning a verdict based on evidence."
The two officers who shot de Menezes testified in the case but their identifies were obscured. They said they believed de Menezes was one of the failed bombers who had tried to attack London's transport system the day before.
De Menezes had an apartment in the same building as Hussain Osman, the subway bombing suspect police were hunting. Osman was later convicted of the failed July 21 attack and is serving a life sentence.
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London police were on high alert at the time of the de Menezes shooting, which also came two weeks after London was hit by the July 7 suicide bombings that killed 52 bus and subway passengers.