Judge weighs claim Greenwood officer violated rights of student

Published 7:38 pm Friday, July 6, 2007

Circuit Judge Ashley Hines said Thursday he would rule later whether Casey Wiggins should face criminal charges stemming from a confrontation in which the Greenwood police officer pulled his pistol on a student at school.

Hines took the case under advisement after completing the probable cause hearing in Lelfore County Circuit Court that included testimony by three Greenwood High School students who said fellow student James Marshall did nothing wrong on Dec. 6 when he was approached by Wiggins.

Another witness, English teacher Joe Nokes, testified that Marshall appeared “more angry than afraid” during the encounter that was captured on school surveillance cameras and attracted national attention.

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“Mr. Marshall was, I would say, resisting,” Nokes said.

Several witnesses testified on Monday.

Marshall, an 18-year-old senior, claims Wiggins, who was on patrol at the school, violated his civil rights by using excessive force. The school cameras captured parts of the interaction between the two, including the officer apparently pointing his pistol at Marshall’s head and putting Marshall in a choke hold.

Wiggins’ lawyer, Mitchell Creel of Greenville, said the rookie officer responded properly after Mitchell refused to comply with Wiggins’ orders and resisted arrest.

Attorney Carlos Moore, representing Marshall, has filed a $2 million civil lawsuit and a federal criminal complaint with the U.S Justice Department. It accuses Wiggins of excessive force and of making a false arrest under the color of law.

According to state law, police officers and public school teachers are entitled to a probable cause hearing before arrest if accused of committing a felony or misdemeanor while on duty.