- Associated Press - Wednesday, April 2, 2014

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) - A former Little Rock police officer charged with manslaughter in the shooting death of a 15-year-old boy is asking a judge to throw out the case to avoid having a third trial of the case.

The latest trial is scheduled to begin May 5 as prosecutors make another attempt to convince a jury that Josh Hastings was reckless when he fatally shot Bobby Moore III in 2012. Two previous juries couldn’t reach a unanimous verdict. Hastings’ most recent trial ended in September.

Attorney Bill James argues in court documents that Hastings should not have to endure a third trial, citing constitutional grounds of due process and fundamental fairness. Prosecutors haven’t yet filed a response.

Circuit Judge Wendell Griffen ruled Wednesday that Hastings can’t argue to the jury that he was justified in shooting into a car that approached him as he was investigating car burglaries at a Little Rock apartment complex.

As he did in the earlier trials, Griffen said he’d limit what the jury can hear to whether Hastings acted recklessly or not. Griffen argued that reckless behavior cannot be justified.

Griffen wrote in his Wednesday ruling that the manslaughter charge applies when someone is accused of having “consciously disregard(ed) a substantial and unjustifiable risk.”

“If the prosecution fails to prove that an accused (person) acted recklessly, then the accused cannot be found guilty of manslaughter,” Griffen wrote.

Hastings claims a car driven by Moore was moving toward him when he fired, but prosecutors say the physical evidence from the scene didn’t match Hastings’ version of events.

James and Griffen have tangled since the first trial in June 2013, with Griffen citing James for contempt and ultimately fining him $5,000, a sum he reduced from $25,000.

After the first jury could not reach a verdict, Griffen informed James of the 10 contempt counts for the way James characterized two juvenile witnesses who were in the car with the victim at the time of the shooting.

James has filed a motion asking Griffen to withdraw from the case, noting that Arkansas law allows a judge to be recused “if the judge has a personal bias or prejudice concerning a party or a party’s lawyer.”

Griffen hasn’t ruled on that motion yet, but turned away a similar request before Hastings’ second trial.

The judge also refused to give ground on rules he established for questioning prospective jurors. Griffen denied a motion by James that objected to Griffen requiring the sides to submit questions under seal for his approval before they could be asked of the jury panel.

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