Officer seeks recusal of black judge in police slaying
Birmingham, Ala. — A white Alabama police officer charged with murder in the killing a black man is asking the black judge hearing the case to step aside, with a hearing on the request set for Thursday.
Attorneys representing Aaron Smith made the request based on what they argued in a court document was a Facebook post by Montgomery County Circuit Judge Greg Griffin.
WSFA-TV reported that a motion filed Monday included a copy of a post in which Griffin wrote he was stopped by Montgomery police early last year.
An officer claimed Griffin matched the description of someone who had been reported in the area with a crowbar, said the post.
“It was aggravating to be detained when the only thing I was guilty of was being a black man walking down the street in his neighborhood with a stick in his hand,” said the post.
The motion noted similarities between Griffin’s experience and what happened in the case against Smith, who shot and killed Greg Gunn while the 58-year-old Gunn was walking in his neighborhood.
Griffin’s post was dated just weeks after Gunn’s death in 2016. The defense cited ethics rules for judges in arguing that Gunn should not preside over the case.
The judge scheduled a hearing for Thursday to consider the request but did not respond to the defense claims. Separately, the judge wrote he would consider a defense request to move the trial outside Montgomery later.
The fatal confrontation began when the officer stopped Gunn as Gunn was walking through his neighborhood shortly after 3 a.m. Friends said Gunn was walking home from his weekly card game to the house he shared with his mother.
The defense has said Smith stopped Gunn because he thought he was acting suspiciously and that Gunn fought with the officer and swung something at him.