Content warning: Parts of this article contain words that may offend some readers. Please continue reading, with that understanding.
Michigan is routinely classified as an open carry state; however, it's discretionary if you are not white. If you are not white and the police officer (Detroit Police Officer James Taylor in this case) decides that non whites shouldn't have guns, then you get arrested for concealed carry and the prosecutor and judge can play along and even bar the attorney's from mentioning that open carry is legal during the trial.
No, this case was not argued in the Central Court of North Korea in Pyongyang, this case was argued in Detroit, Michigan. Although it is hard to tell the difference after hearing about this case.
Fortunately, two attorney's came to the victim's defense. Here is the synopsis from one of the attorneys.
Synopsis by Jim Makowski, Esq.
PEOPLE v. WOODY AAR
On September 13, 2014, Elijah Woody, Jr., a 24 y.o., African-American male, was hanging out chatting with 4-5 friends on the sidewalk of an inner city neighborhood in Detroit. WOODY was open carrying a Glock 23 in a Blackhawk SERPA OWB holster and wearing jeans, a t-shirt, and a light jacket buttoned all the way up.
At approximately 7:50p, a car containing three officers from the Detroit Police Department’s Tactical Response Unit, rounded the corner and approached the group. The TRU officers dress in BDUs and typically act in a paramilitary fashion.
As everyone in Detroit knows but most of us from the suburbs do not, it is common for DPD officers to stop, frisk, demand identification and conduct illegal, unconstitutional searches of any group of black males on public property. If they find anything illegal or questionable they will then lie as to how they learned of the offense.
True to form, the officers stopped the car, jumped out and demanded everyone produce ID. Officer James Taylor went straight to WOODY and asked him “you got some bullshit on you there,” referring to the Glock. WOODY is immediately disarmed, cuffed and placed in the back of the squad car. The officers did not inquire whether he had a CPL until after transporting him to the Detroit Detention Facility, and charging him with the five-year felony of Carrying a Concealed Weapon.
When the police wrote their report they had to come up with a story to justify their encounter with WOODY. The officers claimed they observed the group drinking from red Solo cups and, as they drove up they “smelled the strong odor of burning marijuana” from a moving car about 15’ away (must be some bloodhound genes there). Officer Taylor claimed that when WOODY noticed their approach he “bladed” his body to limit their ability to see his right hip and started “backpedaling.” Taylor claimed that WOODY then turned full face on, lifted the right side of his jacket and exposed the Glock hidden under his jacket, stating he was “open carrying.”
Shortly after the arrest I was contacted and advised about this gross abuse of WOODY’s rights. I reached out to my good friend Terry Johnson, a fellow 2A defense lawyer, to see if he was interested in jointly defending WOODY. He agreed so we took the case.
At the preliminary exam two of the three officers testified and many inconsistencies became evident in their testimony. Despite these obvious falsehoods the judge decided that there was Probable Cause that a crime had been committed and bound the matter over to Wayne County Circuit Court on the felony CCW charge. We flat out refused to engage in plea negotiations and demanded the matter be set for jury trial.
At 4:49p the afternoon before trial the Wayne County Prosecutor filed two Motions in Limine. A Motion in Limine is a pretrial motion generally filed several weeks before trial, used to exclude certain evidence or limit what the jury is allowed to know. The prosecutor sought to exclude part of the dashcam recordings that, to put it mildly, were uncomplimentary about the general public. (Editor's Note: We understand that while in the cruiser the Detroit Police Officers were heard calling people that were out and about "niggers", "pussies", and "motherfuckers". Please understand, we don't like printing these words, but we want you to understand the exact nature of the conduct of these officers.) He also sought an order from the judge PROHIBITING US FROM CLAIMING OPEN CARRY AS A DEFENSE. The judge granted both motions and we were forbidden to explain to the jury that Open Carry differed from Concealed Carry and what the differences were.
At trial the next day Officer Taylor claimed that he decided WOODY had a gun on him based upon his “extensive experience” and the fact he was “blading” his body away. When asked whether he yelled “GUN” or in any way alerted his partners of the presence of a firearm he said no and claimed that he was trying to “deescalate” the situation. Yet when the second officer took the stand, on cross examination he claimed that they had a “code word” to alert the other officers of a gun and that Taylor had given it. Further, the dashcam video showed WOODY being placed in the rear of the squad car with the empty holster clearly visible. The jacket the police claimed was hanging down covering the gun was clearly shown in the video to be buttoned all the way up. It became obvious that the officers had fabricated their story, with jurors shaking their heads in disgust at times. The day ended after the first two officers testified.
The next morning the last officer testified. He was the most truthful, stating that he hadn’t really interacted with WOODY as he was on security overwatch, making sure the other civilians present were not a threat. The prosecution rested and we made a Motion for a Directed Verdict, asking that the judge rule that, as a matter of law, the Defendant could not be found guilty. Since the judge is required to view the evidence in the light most favorable to the non-moving party the motion was denied.
Our first witness testified how the group had been standing around, talking about the upcoming Floyd Meriwether fight that was going to take place that night when the cops drove up, ordered everyone to put their hands up, and directly approached WOODY. The witness firmly stated that WOODY’s gun was not concealed or in any way hidden by a coat.
The WOODY then elected to take the witness stand to testify in his own defense. The arresting officers had not realized that WOODY had pulled out his cell phone and started recording video. While the video only lasted 13 seconds it completely contradicted the police version of the facts, showing that WOODY had his hands up and was 2-3’ away from the nearest person and not moving away. The video cut off as Taylor slapped the phone out of his hand. It was perfectly clear that the cops saw the gun from the moving car and headed directly to WOODY hassle him.
After we rested we again asked the judge allow us to explain in the Jury Instructions that Open Carry is legally recognized and that the jury should be advised of same but we were again denied. The case was sent to the jury at noon. Shortly thereafter the jury asked to see the videos. It took a while to get the videos set up for the jury to review but, five minutes or so after the jury reviewed the videos they came back with a NOT GUILTY verdict.
LESSONS TO BE LEARNED
1. Always get a CPL.
2. Always record when Open Carrying, especially without a CPL.
3. Detroit Police cannot be trusted to recognize your right to Open Carry.
4. Expect dirty tricks from the prosecutor’s office.
5. Make sure you have competent legal counsel.
So there you have it, if you are not white, Michigan is only open carry friendly if the cop decides that he's not going to arrest you anyway and make up charges.
Keep this in mind next time someone tries to tell you that Michigan is "gun friendly". It's not. In fact, if you are not white, you are at risk -- especially in Wayne County and Gennessee County.
I would add that if a non-white person carries a gun lawfully without a concealed pistol license, they should also carry a recording device that backs up to a cloud server in real time as well as carrying contact information for an attorney or two.
Thankfully in this case, the victim had a video that proved that the officers lied under oath, specifically Detroit Cop James Taylor. He was so caught up in his lies and fabrications that he was too dumb to delete the recording that proved his felony conspiracy.
This is nothing new in Michigan. The gun laws that we are stuck with were mostly passed to disarm minorities (specifically people who are black and Jewish). Apparently some in Michigan haven't gotten the memo that it's 2015.
So has this corrupt cop been arrested by the State Police or by the FBI civil rights division? No. Is this cop under investigation by the Detroit Police? No. Is this dirty cop still driving around Detroit after lying under oath and after committing multiple federal felonies while your tax dollars are paying for his salary and medical benefits? Yes.
Sadly, this is by no means an isolated incident.