Former Officer Who Killed Corey Jones Denied Stand Your Ground Immunity
Corey Jones was a musician and housing inspector. He also owned and carried a gun legally. Corey was 31-years old on the night of October 18, 2015 when Palm Beach Gardens police officer Nouman K. Raja was on duty in plain clothes and an unmarked car. Corey had performed with his band and was on his way home when his car broke-down near a highway exit ramp.
Officer Nouman K. Raja, now 40-year olds, had been on the job for 6 months. He stopped to investigate what he thought was an abandoned vehicle on the darkened ramp. Raja claimed that when he stepped out of his vehicle, “he was suddenly confronted by an armed subject.”
When Raja approached Corey, Corey was on the phone with AT&T Roadside Assistance. The call was recording as Raja and Corey had a verbal exchange. Raja fired 6-shots, hitting Corey 3 times killing him.
A month later, Raja was fired from the Palm Beach Gardens Police Department. In June 2016, Raja was charged with manslaughter by culpable negligence and attempted first-degree murder with a firearm. Raja posted a $250,000 bail and was place on house arrest.
On April 19, 2018, Raja filed a motion to dismiss the charges under Florida’s Stand Your Ground Law. The hearing was held in May 2018.
On June 1, 2018, Judge Samantha Schosberg Feuer of Florida’s 15th Judicial Circuit Court, denied Raja Stand Your Ground. Much of the judge’s 27 page decision addresses Stand Your Ground Law, and the change that the Florida legislature made for the party carrying the burden of proof.
The Stand Your Ground hearing involved lots of forensic testimony. For example, the distance from where Corey’s body was found from his vehicle; the distance where his gun was found from his body; that Corey’s gun had not been fired; the syncing of the call to AT&T recording the shots, with Raja’s 911 call 33 seconds later where he was yelling “Drop the gun” but no shots were heard. Raja also said that he had lost sight of Corey.
A portion of the judge’s Finding of Fact, beginning with page 10, is something I found most interesting. Raja’s defense was that he identified himself to Corey as a police officer. That defense raises the possibility that if Corey went for his gun that he did with intention of using it on an officer of the law. At the hearing, Raja’s defense entered the call to AT&T Roadside Assistance into evidence, and called a forensic audio analyst to the stand.
Judge Samantha Schosberg Feuer found;
“First, Defendant called Frank Piazza(“Piazza”), a forensic audio analyst albeit not a voice recognition analyst, to discuss his evaluation of Jones’s roadside assistance call. The call was played numerous times during the hearing and the below is what can be heard between the Defendant and Jones.”
Jones: “No, I’m good. Yeah, I’m good.”
Defendant: “Get your fuckin’ hands up! Get your fuckin’ hands up!”
Jones: “Hold on”
Defendant: “Get your fuckin’ hands up! Drop.”
(Three gunshots heard)
(Car door open bell heard)
Defendant: “Drop it!”
(Three gunshots heard)
(Car door open bell heard)
The judge goes on to describe that Piazza testified that something was said before Corey Jones said “Huh?” and it could have been Raja identifying himself as a police officer. The judge found;
“. . . , any argument regarding whether Defendant identified himself as a police officer as he approached Jones is moot, since the first discernible word on the call was Jones saying “huh?” It is common sense that in saying “huh,” Jones did not hear what was, if anything, specifically said to him that evening.”
The judge denied Raja immunity, ruling that Raja’s sworn statement of testimony was unreliable and not credible because it was inconsistent with the physical evidence. The inconsistencies are pointed out, beginning with page 20 of the decision.
On June 20, 2018, Raja’s attorney, Richard Lubin, filed an appeal of judge Feuer’s decision. The appeal will delay the trial’s official start date, which had been planned for July 16, 2018. This also further delays a wrongful death civil lawsuit filed in July 2016 by Corey Jones’ Estate. The civil lawsuit alleges that in Raja’s previous job as an Atlantis police officer, that his record shows a “propensity to use excessive force against citizens” and interjected himself in situations beyond his lawful authority to resolve matters not related to himself. Raja had at least 14 use-of-force incidents in two years. The wrongful death civil lawsuit has been stayed by the court until after Raja’s criminal trial.
Below are videos of the 2 day Stand Your Ground hearing. You will need to click the message that appears in order to watch the videos on Youtube. They will open in another tab or window, depending on your browser setting.
Stand Your Ground Hearing
Day 1 – Part 1
Day 1 – Part 2
Day 1 – Part 3
Day 1 – Part 4
Day 1 – Part 5
Day 1 – Part 6
Day 2 – Part 1
Day 2 – Part 2
Day 2 – Part 3
Day 2 – Part 4
Day 2 – Part 5 (Medical Examiner)