What to know about the legislative inquiry into Ronald Greene’s deadly arrest
Jun 4, 2023, 9:45 PM
BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — Louisiana lawmakers who last year demanded Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards testify about whether he was complicit in a cover-up over state troopers’ deadly 2019 arrest of Black motorist Ronald Greene have quietly abandoned their work without hearing from the governor or issuing any findings.
Here’s what you need to know:
WHAT HAPPENED TO RONALD GREENE?
Greene’s May 10, 2019, death at the end of a high-speed chase in rural northeast Louisiana was shrouded in secrecy from the beginning, when state police troopers told grieving relatives and put in initial reports that the 49-year-old died in a car crash — an account questioned by both his family and an emergency room doctor. But it would take 464 days before the Louisiana State Police opened an internal probe, and officials from Edwards on down refused for more than two years to release the troopers’ body-camera video.
That all changed in May 2021 when The Associated Press obtained and published the footage that showed troopers stunning, punching and dragging Greene by his ankle shackles as he wailed, “I’m your brother! I’m scared! I’m scared!” It showed Greene forced to stay face-down on the ground for nine minutes before he eventually went limp. One trooper was later captured on video admitting in a phone call to a colleague that he “beat the ever-living f— out of him.”
A state grand jury late last year brought the first charges in the case, indicting five law enforcement officers on counts ranging from negligent homicide to obstruction. But the Justice Department still has not indicated whether it will bring federal charges following a years-long civil rights investigation.
WHAT IS THE GOVERNOR’S ROLE?
Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards, a Democrat in his second term, oversees the state police. Lawmakers began looking at him early last year after an AP investigation found he had been informed in a text from the state police within hours of Greene’s death that troopers engaged in a “violent, lengthy struggle,” yet the governor stayed mostly silent on the case for more than two years as the state police he oversees continued to press the car crash theory.
Another AP report found that Edwards in 2020 privately watched a key body-camera video of Greene’s deadly arrest six months before state prosecutors say they knew it even existed, and neither the governor, his staff nor the state police acted urgently to get the footage into the hands of those with the power to bring charges.
Edwards has repeatedly said he did nothing to influence or hinder the Greene investigation and eventually described the troopers’ actions on the video as both criminal and racist. He also said there was no way he could have known that the footage he privately watched in 2020 had not already been turned over to prosecutors.
WHAT WERE LAWMAKERS SEEKING?
Republican House Speaker Clay Schexnayder launched a special bipartisan committee early last year to look into how “all levels” of state government responded to the Greene case and whether there was a cover-up.
In a handful of hearings, a state police supervisor told the committee he had been instructed by superiors not to turn over body-camera footage to prosecutors, and detectives testified they were pressured by commanders to hold off on arresting the trooper who boasted of beating Greene.
After initially dismissing the legislative inquiry as a “witch hunt,” Edwards agreed to cooperate and testify. Lawmakers postponed his first scheduled testimony last June and when they invited the governor to testify again in November, it gave him only a few days notice and he instead attended an out-of-town ribbon-cutting ceremony.
Since then, Edwards hasn’t received another invitation, his spokesman said.
WHAT HAPPENED TO THE COMMITTEE?
No committee hearings have happened since November and no more are planned.
Lawmakers offered an array of explanations, including election-year politics, concern that a probe of the state police wasn’t playing well with the state’s mostly conservative voters and even a lack of resources in the legislature. State Rep. Tanner Magee, a Republican who chaired the committee said: “Behind the façade, it’s a Mickey Mouse organization trying to do its best.”
GOP leader Schexnayder said lawmakers ultimately decided to take a back seat to a U.S. Justice Department investigation that predated the committee’s formation by two years. And he accused Edwards of declining to participate.
Edwards recently told reporters he would still be willing to testify about the Greene case but added “there wouldn’t be anything new to be gained.”