Citizens Review Board Hearing On Keith Scott Ends In Split Vote

Aug 10, 2017

Charlotte’s Citizens Review Board will not ask CMPD Chief Kerr Putney to reverse his decision to exonerate Officer Brentley Vinson of wrongdoing in last year’s fatal shooting of Keith Lamont Scott. After nearly three full days of testimony and arguments, Thursday’s vote was split four to four.

The results were announced by Board Chair Sandra Donaghy after about three hours of deliberations.  

“The board was unable to reach a majority decision and will not be recommending that the chief reverse his decision,” said Donaghy.

She described the hearing as a tragic and difficult process and said the split decision reflected that complexity. Board attorney Cary Davis described the results this way.

CRB attorney Cary Davis answers questions about the split vote
Credit Gwendolyn Glenn / WFAE News

“The four to four decision here reflects the really difficult and tragic issues in this case and reflects that the community has its various beliefs about the case and I think the board’s decision reflects that,” Davis said.

Regardless of how the review board members voted, they were unanimous in their belief that some things were done wrong when Keith Scott was fatally shot outside a University City apartment complex last September. Board members voted 8 to 0 to send specific recommendations to Chief Kerr Putney on things they think need to change. Review board Chair Donaghy.

“The CRB will be making policy recommendations to the CMPD concerning policies applied and decisions made by the officers involved in the incident. We cannot and will not comment on what those recommendations will be,” she said.

CMPD officials and attorneys for the department await the Citizens Review Board's decision
Credit Gwendolyn Glenn / WFAE News

Like the closed-door hearing, a state law mandate, no one involved in the hearing can discuss anything that was said during the proceedings. The board’s attorney says they realize people are probably frustrated with this but says they should direct that at the state General Assembly, whose members passed the laws the board operates under.

Justin Bamberg, one of the attorneys for the Scott family says he's glad the review board recommended policy changes for the CMPD
Credit Gwendolyn Glenn / WFAE News

Justin Bamberg, one of the attorneys for the Scott family commended the board for pushing for policy changes. He says he respects the split decision and does not look at it as a loss.

“I consider today a good day,” Bamberg said. “Of course we wanted to win in a one-sided fashion. We still don’t see this as a justifiable shooting and the board was split, which comes a long way from the chief’s determination that this shooting was absolutely 150 percent justified but four of the board members thought differently.”

The Citizens Review Board is an 11-member volunteer body. One seat is vacant and two members were absent Thursday. The hearing had been scheduled for two days but stretched to a third. Bamberg says he is not upset over the absences.

“I don’t think it affected anything. Those that were here heard the evidence presented, essentially the first time the Scott family was able to present their side. We are still looking into the likelihood of success on a civil lawsuit. Particularly after today, we are feeling encouraged,” Bamberg said.

But the outcome was frustrating for local NAACP President Corine Mack. Earlier she called for residents not to protest but give the review board a chance to make a decision. She thought it would be clear cut and possibly favor the Scott family.

Local NAACP President Corine Mack says she's upset over the split vote
Credit Gwendolyn Glenn / WFAE News

“Clearly I’m not happy, in fact, I’m concerned because I don’t know why you would convene a board and not have an odd number to ensure that you don’t have a tie,” Mack said. “Not having an odd number is a very big concern for me right now.”

The board did not release how individual members voted and the board’s attorney refused to reveal what the breakdown was along racial lines. City officials say since the Citizens Review Board was established in 2013, they have held five evidentiary hearings, but so far, none have resulted in a recommendation to overturn a Police Department decision.