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In shock decision, judge in police killing trial moves to block oral closing arguments

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Thursday, May 11, 2023


Kristine Mikkelsen,

Eliel Cruz,

New York - Tonight, the first day of testimony after a two-week adjournment of the discipline trial against NYPD Officers Brendan Thompson and Herbert Davis for the killing of Kawaski Trawick, the trial judge ruled that she would not allow oral closing summations - and would only accept written summations to be submitted privately to her, weeks after the trial is concluded. The shock decision comes after a cascade of judicial decisions that appear to rush the trial and block the full investigation from being heard. The trial outcome will determine whether the officers will face any discipline penalties, including employment termination, for killing Mr. Trawick in his home while he was cooking, on the night of April 14, 2019.

"This is unbelievable - her decision to not allow oral closing arguments came out of left field and is another roadblock to the truth coming out, just as the truth is starting to see sunlight,” said Ellen and Rickie Trawick, parents of Kawaski Trawick. “Today's testimony was damning - the head of the NYPD investigation had to admit that they didn't ask any follow-up questions when Thompson and Davis' lies contradicted the video in their interviews. It seems like the judge is trying to help the NYPD hide their wrongdoing - I feel like we're watching an NYPD cover-up in real-time. We traveled here with Kawaski's sisters, our daughters, to be at the trial and we're finally getting at some facts with the testimony but it seems like this judge is trying to protect Thompson and Davis when what's happening in the trial room is showing they need to be fired."

On April 14, 2019, Kawaski Trawick locked himself out of his apartment while he was cooking. The fire department let Mr. Trawick back into his apartment without incident. Mr. Trawick was cooking in his home after the situation had been resolved when NYPD Officers Thompson and Davis illegally entered Mr. Trawick’s apartment by using a baton to break the chain on his door and killed him in 112 seconds.

After tasing and shooting Mr. Trawick, neither of the officers attempted to administer emergency medical aid. They held the door to Kawaski’s apartment closed, and waited before checking on him, leaving Mr. Trawick to bleed out on the floor for several minutes before medical personnel arrived.

The NYPD investigation into Kawaski’s killing and the subsequent trial process has been mired in years of cover-ups, delays and obstruction. Today’s decision by Rosemarie Maldonado, the NYPD judge presiding over the case is yet another example of the obstacles Kawaski’s family has had to face in their pursuit of basic accountability for their son.

"Not allowing oral closing arguments is another way to prevent closure for this family," said Royce Russell, attorney for the Trawicks. "Once again, the NYPD is working in a vacuum and acting like they aren't accountable to anyone. This lack of humanity must stop."

Just today, a ProPublica investigative piece detailed the lengths to which the officers and the NYPD went to hide misconduct and protect themselves from any sort of accountability. The piece and the newly-revealed investigative files make clear that both officers were interviewed for only 30 minutes each during the course of the NYPD’s almost-two year investigation and were not questioned about their clear violations of NYPD protocol, false and misleading statements they made in their interviews or statements made that contradicted video evidence.

NYPD body camera video shows that Officer Herbert Davis used his baton to break the chain on Kawaski Trawick’s door within seconds of their arrival, gaining illegal entry to his apartment. Files released today by ProPublica show that Davis and Thompson were never questioned about this act in NYPD's interviews of them.

"It's been four years of obstruction and cover-ups and this latest decision by the judge is another slap in the face to Kawaski's family and New Yorkers,” said Loyda Colon, Executive Director of the Justice Committee and member of Communities United for Police Reform. “Today we heard the head of the investigation get questioned about why the NYPD's interviews of Thompson and Davis didn't ask basic questions, why false statements weren't contradicted or challenged during their official interviews and why there was no mention in the official report of instances where their actions were against their training and NYPD protocol - and he had no answers. We also heard from a former assistant chief of police who testified that Thompson and Davis acted outside of their training and against NYPD and police procedures. This was all damning and the NYPD is once again trying to bury the truth - the fact that the NYPD judge made the decision tonight to side with the cops' lawyers and block the CCRB from being able to summarize all of the misconduct and reasons these officers should be fired in oral closing arguments is about shielding not only Thompson and Davis from consequences, but the NYPD overall - it's hard to see this as anything other than part of an ongoing cover-up. The Trawicks deserve better and so do New Yorkers. The judge and NYPD should reverse this decision and allow oral closing arguments in addition to written summations as she said she would do last week."

The Adams administration has continued with de Blasio-era delays and obstruction. At a pre-trial conference last month, the NYPD changed the dates of the trial because Deputy Chief Kevin M. Maloney, an NYPD official who wasn’t a witness to the killing, but will testify on the officer’s behalf, scheduled vacation during the original trial dates -- even though the dates were confirmed last year. As a result, the trial was interrupted by a two-week adjournment after the majority of the prosecution’s case - giving the defense more time to prepare. At the same hearing, the CCRB reported that the NYPD still hadn’t turned all requested files over.

Last month, on the four-year anniversary of Kawaski’s killing, Rosemarie Maldonado, the NYPD judge presiding over the case, unilaterally initiated consideration of a last-minute, pre-trial dismissal of one of multiple misconduct charges substantiated in 2021. Maldonado set a deadline of the following business day for written filings and rejected CCRB’s request for oral arguments and then took the unprecedented move to dismiss the illegal entry charge, just days before the trial - but was forced to walk that back when the trial started because of her lack of authority to dismiss a CCRB charge. The illegal entry charge is formally still part of the trial.

If found guilty of the misconduct charges, the officers may face disciplinary penalties up to, and including termination due to the seriousness of the misconduct.

Mr. Trawick was a Black gay man, a son, and a brother pursuing his dreams as a dancer, aerobics, and fitness instructor in New York City before those dreams and his life was cut short at the hands of NYPD Officers Thompson and Davis. Judge Maldonado has signaled that regardless of how much time might be required for testimony, the trial will conclude tomorrow.


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