ALBUQUERQUE (KRQE) - A jury has found former Albuquerque Police Department Officer Connor Rice not guilty on two counts of abusing suspects during a drug investigation.
Rice had been on trial since Monday accused of using excessive force when he and other officers chased men believed to have been smoking marijuana at a city park in May 2012.
The jury found him not guilty of battery and aggravated battery.
State prosecutor Timothy Callaway told KRQE News 13 he thought the lapel camera video as it all unraveled speaks for itself, but apparently it did not.
A juror walking out of the courthouse Thursday simply said, "Evidence wasn't there."
The jury got the case Wednesday afternoon and deliberated about 45 minutes before breaking for the night. Deliberations resumed Thursday morning, and the verdict was reached at about 11:30 a.m.
“It is a huge weight off my shoulders,” Rice said. “I'm looking forward to moving forward.”
Despite the lapel camera video showing Rice tasing a suspect that had already been tased and later hitting a suspect who was screaming he had surrendered, prosecutors say proving he used excessive force was an uphill battle.
“The thing is New Mexico law provides officers additional protections in these kinds of criminal prosecution,” Callaway said. “The state has an additional burden to prove the conduct was unlawful. It's very difficult to do that."
Callaway admitted to having credibility issues with witnesses, like the drug investigation suspect who'd been tased.
For the state, the lapel video was key.
“I actually still think the video speaks for itself,” Callaway said.
But the jury didn't agree, finding Rice not guilty of battery and aggravated battery.
“It was unbelievable relief,” Rice said. “I've been waiting for that for a long time."
The charges got Rice fired from his job at APD.
Since then, he said he has been trying to make the best of an incredibly stressful ordeal, spending time with his wife and two kids.
Rice said he doesn't know what the future holds, but he has appealed his termination as an APD officer.
“I loved my job,” Rice said. “I can tell you that. I'm deeply grateful for the relationships I formed on that job, and I will always be grateful for those relationships".
Rice said he had been with APD for seven years.
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