Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards said there was “no excuse” for a video he watched of the deadly arrest of Black motorist Ronald Greene failing to reach prosecutors for another six months. But he maintained he couldn’t have known at the time that the footage had not already been turned over.
The Democrat’s remarks in a news conference Thursday offered a preview of his June 16 testimony to a bipartisan legislative committee investigating allegations of a cover-up in Greene’s 2019 death in Louisiana State Police custody.
Edwards said there isn’t a good explanation for the key video not being promptly turned over but emphasized that he didn’t know in October 2020 that he was seeing evidence that wasn’t available to the authorities with the power to charge the troopers seen beating, stunning and dragging Greene.
“There’s no excuse for it,” Edwards said. “I didn’t know about it.”
An Associated Press report last week found that neither Edwards, his staff nor the state police he oversees acted urgently to get the footage into the hands of detectives or prosecutors. That clip did not reach them until April 2021, nearly two years after Greene’s May 10, 2019 death that troopers initially blamed on a car crash. Now three years have passed, and despite ongoing federal and state investigations, no one has been criminally charged.
Edwards said he intends to tell lawmakers the truth. “The truth, as I’ve said all along, is good for me.”
At issue is the 30-minute body-camera footage from Lt. John Clary, the highest-ranking trooper to respond to Greene’s arrest. It is one of two videos of the incident, and captured events not seen on the 46-minute clip from Trooper Dakota DeMoss that shows troopers swarming Greene’s car after a high-speed chase, repeatedly jolting him with stun guns, beating him in the head and dragging him by his ankle shackles.
Clary’s video is perhaps even more significant to the investigations because it is the only footage that shows the moment a handcuffed, bloody Greene moans under the weight of two troopers, twitches and then goes still. It also shows troopers ordering the heavyset, 49-year-old Greene to remain face down on the ground with his hands and feet restrained for more than nine minutes — a tactic use-of-force experts criticized as dangerous and likely to have restricted his breathing.
In his news conference, Edwards emphasized contested accounts of whether the Clary video was shown to Greene’s family days after the governor and his lawyers saw it, saying this “is another instance of the media reports getting the substance of their report just very wrong.”
Greene’s family says it was not shown the Clary video after meeting Edwards on Oct. 14, a claim affirmed by prosecutors and several others who attended the viewing in Baton Rouge. State police and the governor’s office, however, disputed that, previously telling the AP that the Clary video was in fact shown.
The governor highlighted an email from lawyer Phaedra Parks saying she was one of the attorneys for Greene’s family present at the viewing and they did see the Clary video. Parks included with her email a copy of handwritten notes from the day of the meeting that includes timestamps and details of events shown on Clary’s footage.
Another lawyer for Greene’s family, Lee Merritt, previously said they were not shown the Clary video, and contemporaneous notes from the then-head of the state police appear to indicate that there were multiple showings on that day, with the family not present for one.
John Belton, the Union Parish district attorney and lead prosecutor on Greene’s case, said Friday he remains “certain” he was not shown the Clary video that day. “We would have known we were seeing something different,” he told the AP. “We didn’t see it.”
Edwards said he thinks Belton “is mistaken.”
Bleiberg reported from Dallas, Mustian from Los Angeles.