Bruscato seeks contempt charges for witnesses in Barmore case
By Stuart R. Wahlin
During a Dec. 28 press conference, Winnebago County State’s Attorney Joe Bruscato (D) said he will ask 17th Circuit Judge Joseph McGraw (R) to hold Sheila and Marissa Brown in contempt of court after they failed to appear at a Dec. 23 grand jury hearing, for which they’d been subpoenaed Dec. 17 to testify.
Dec. 21, the Browns petitioned McGraw to reschedule their testimony, because they had planned to be out of state for the Christmas holiday. McGraw denied the request, but Bruscato indicated that, as a gesture of flexibility, his office had offered to let the Browns be first to give testimony the morning of the Dec. 23 grand jury hearing. The Browns, however, proceeded with vacation plans and did not appear before the grand jury.
Both were present Aug. 24 in the House of Grace Daycare, 518 N. Court St., when Rockford Police officers Oda Poole and Stan North shot 24-year-old Mark Anthony Barmore to death when Barmore allegedly lunged for Poole’s firearm after being cornered in the facility’s boiler room.
Twelve children were reportedly present in the daycare during the shooting.
Barmore, Bruscato said Dec. 23, was grazed by a bullet from Poole’s service weapon during the alleged struggle, during which North shot Barmore once in the upper back, once in the lower back and once in the buttocks. A fourth shot missed the suspect.
Barmore was being sought for a domestic disturbance, and officers were advised he may be armed. After the shooting, however, it was discovered Barmore was unarmed.
Marissa, 17, is the daughter of Sheila and Kingdom Authority International Ministries Pastor Melvin Brown. The daycare and church share the same building.
Marissa allegedly gave a statement Aug. 24 indicating Barmore had exited the boiler room with his hands up and head down. Although the Browns did not appear to testify before the grand jury, their statements were admitted into the record.
However, according to Bruscato, the grand jury found their accounts were inconsistent with physical evidence and the testimony of other witnesses. A news conference held late Dec. 23 revealed the grand jury found both officers justified in the deadly use of force.
Furthermore, during the Dec. 28 news conference, Bruscato said there is reason to believe the Browns’ daughter could not have seen the altercation from where she’d allegedly been standing during the incident, based on the testimony of another witness.
The racially-charged controversy has attracted the attention of civil rights activist the Rev. Jesse Jackson in recent months. Dec. 26, Jackson renewed his call for a federal probe of the incident. Jackson also asserted it was unreasonable for a grand jury to expect the Browns to cancel vacation plans with notice given only six days prior. The scheduling of testimony, he suggested, was suspect.
A hearing before McGraw on the matter is scheduled for Jan. 4.
A civil case filed by the Barmore family, alleging wrongful death, is expected to begin in mid-January.
Meantime, officers North and Poole remain on administrative duties.
From the Dec. 30, 2009 – Jan. 5, 2010 issue
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