Gov. John Bel Edwards agreed on Wednesday to a request from Louisiana lawmakers that he and his top attorneys testify before a bipartisan committee investigating allegations of a cover-up in the deadly 2019 arrest of Black motorist Ronald Greene.
The request came just days after The Associated Press reported that Edwards and his lawyers privately watched a long-withheld video showing Greene taking his final breaths during his fatal arrest — yet did not act urgently to get the crucial footage into the hands of those with the power to charge the white Louisiana State Police troopers seen stunning, punching and dragging the man.
The video, which showed critical moments and audio absent from other footage that was turned over, didn’t reach prosecutors until nearly two years after Greene’s May 10, 2019, death on a rural roadside near Monroe. Prosecutors and detectives have said they were not even aware the 30-minute clip existed until six months after the governor viewed it in October 2020.
State Rep. Clay Schexnayder, the Republican House speaker, cited “serious questions that can only be answered by" the Democratic governor and his staff.
“This committee will do its job and see this through no matter where the evidence leads," Schexnayder said in a statement asking the governor to appear before the committee June 16.
Edwards' top lawyer, Matthew Block, wrote in a public letter to the committee that he, another lawyer and the governor will all appear to testify.
“We are confident that this testimony will demonstrate that neither the governor nor anyone on his staff had any role in any attempt to cover up the facts related to Mr. Greene’s death,” Block wrote to Rep. Tanner Magee, the Republican who chairs the panel.
Block previously had told the AP that there was no way for the governor to have known at the time that the video he watched had not already been turned over to prosecutors, and there was no effort by the governor or his staff to withhold evidence.
The legislative committee for weeks has sought to reconstruct the state's response to Greene's death, interviewing a long list of law enforcement officials and even subpoenaing the handwritten journals of a former state police superintendent.
Lawmakers are now pivoting to what the governor knew, when he knew it and what he did about an in-custody death that troopers initially blamed on a car crash. The legislative inquiry comes amid ongoing federal and state investigations that have not resulted in any charges.
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 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.
The governor’s attorneys didn’t mention seeing the Clary video in a meeting days later with state prosecutors, who wouldn’t receive the footage until a detective discovered it almost by accident six months later. But state police say they showed the Clary video to Greene's family days after the governor viewed it.
Several members of Greene's family denied they had seen the video, but one of their attorneys wrote lawmakers an email this week confirming they had, in fact, seen Clary's video, citing contemporaneous notes.
Mustian reported from Los Angeles, Bleiberg from Dallas.