Michael Edington is a 27-year-old police officer with the Norfolk Police Department who has been charged with the manslaughter of David Latham, who he shot while on duty. As part of Edington’s defense, his attorney, Jeff Swartz, plans to introduce an expert witness who will testify on how Norfolk officers are trained to decide whether to shoot. The prosecutors are trying to keep the expert off the stand.
On June 6, 2014, Audrey Latham called the police for assistance with her son. Audrey Latham said her son was suffering from schizophrenia and had recently stopped taking his medication. She had called the police at least eight times previously for assistance with her son.
Several police officers responded to the call. When the police arrived, Latham was still holding a knife that he had grabbed earlier when he was fighting with his brother. Within minutes of police arrival to the Latham home, Edington shot Latham six times, including two times in the back.
A special grand jury was impaneled to decide whether to indict Edington. The grand jury considered charges of second-degree murder, use of a firearm in the commission of a felony, and voluntary manslaughter. The grand jury returned a charge of voluntary manslaughter. Voluntary manslaughter is a class-5 felony in Virginia, punishable by up to 10 years in prison.
When Edington was indicted, Latham’s Family released a statement saying, “The family is pleased the criminal case will go forward. They are looking for justice for their son. They are pleased the grand jury found there is sufficient evidence to indict, but they know there is still work to be done. The criminal case will be a public trial. We feel it is good because everyone will be able to know what happened. We are pleased the court system seems to be working. From everyone knowing what happened here, we can prevent this from happening to other families.”
Expert Witness Controversy
Defense attorney Jeff Swartz wants to call expert Urey Patrick to testify in Edington’s defense. Patrick has 24 years experience with the FBI and has been testifying in similar court cases since his retirement in 1997. Patrick has reviewed Norfolk’s police office training and proposes to testify regarding why officers shoot to kill, why they fire so many shots, and why they may continue to shoot when someone is no longer a threat.
Commonwealth’s Attorney Greg Underwood argued that Patrick should not be allowed to testify. Underwood argued that Patrick doesn’t know how Norfolk trains its officers because he has never trained them nor seen them trained and any testimony on Norfolk’s training would be inadmissible hearsay. Underwood also argued that Patrick is not qualified to testify as to why an officer would use deadly force. Underwood also stated that he thought that Patrick would testify about whether Edington was justified in shooting Latham.
Circuit Judge Junius Fulton III has yet to decide whether to allow Urey Patrick to testify.