Tag Archives: police tactics expert witness

Dueling Experts Contribute to Mistrial in Case Against Baltimore Officer who Arrested Freddie Gray

A Baltimore area judge has declared a mistrial against the first police officer to face prosecution for the death of Freddie Gray after jurors could not reach a verdict after more than 16 hours of deliberations.  While many factors can contribute to juror deadlock, the emotionally charged case featured several conflicting expert witness statements, none of which was convincing enough to sway the entire jury towards conviction.

First Officer Trial in Freddie Gray Case Ends with Mistrial

Baltimore police officer William G. Porter was the first of six officers charged with the death of Freddie Gray, a suspect who died in police custody in April of this year.  Freddie Gray, who suffered a fatal neck injury while shackled in a Baltimore PD van, earned the national spotlight when protests over his death turned to riots by angry citizens of predominantly black Baltimore neighborhoods who expressed frustration about law enforcement brutality against African American citizens.  Porter, who is also black, denied racially motivated treatment of Gray and maintained that he and his fellow officers were unaware of the seriousness of the 25-year-old injuries at the time of his death.

During the trial, prosecutors called medical expert witnesses in an effort to convince jurors that Officer Porter – along with his colleagues – acted inappropriately by failing to properly secure Gray in the back of the police van, and, more importantly, failing to call for medical help when the victim’s injuries became apparent.  Attorneys for William Porter called counter-experts in police training and medical fields to dispute the prosecution’s position and argue the defendant was not responsible for the tragic accident which took Gray’s life.

Prosecution in Freddie Gray Case Calls Expert Witnesses

During the prosecution’s case against Baltimore officer William Porter attorneys for the state argued the six police officials had an opportunity to prevent Freddie Gray’s death by taking better precautions and by responding to Gray’s injuries in a timely manner, but failed on both accounts.  Neither side contests the fact that the van Gray was placed in upon his arrest made a total of 6 stops before officers requested medical attention Gray’s injuries, but what is contested is where along those 6 stops the victim suffered the fatal injury.  Prosecutors argue Gray suffered the injury early in the trip – sometime after the second stop – which would give police officers ample time to respond to his injuries.

To support their case prosecutors called Dr. Carol Allan, the medical examiner who performed Gray’s autopsy, as a forensic expert witness.  Dr. Allan told jurors that her expert analysis of the case concluded Gray was injured sometime between the 2nd and the 4th stop of the van, and believes that the police acted with criminal negligence by failing to recognize the severity of the situation after the 4th stop.  According to Dr. Allan had Gray received prompt medical attention after the 4th stop then he may not have died in the police van, suggesting Porter and his fellow officers failed in their opportunity to request timely medical attention.

Dr. Allan’s testimony was buttressed by Illinois neurosurgeon and medical expert witness Dr. Morris Marc Soriano who told the court that immediate medical attention could have saved Freddie Gray’s life.  A final medical expert for prosecutors was paramedic Angelique Herbert who responded to the scene after Porter and his fellow officers finally called for medical attention.  According to Herbert, by the time she arrived at the scene Freddie Gray was already beyond saving.  Defense attorneys responded to the testimony by prosecution experts with police tactic and forensic expert witnesses who told the court there was nothing Officer Porter could have, or should have, done differently during Gray’s arrest and detention.

Defense Attorneys in Freddie Gray Officer Trial Use Expert Testimony

Early in the defense’s case, attorneys for William Porter called Timothy Longo, a police chief in Charlottesville, Virginia with more than 35-years of experience as an officer, as a police tactics expert witness.  According to Longo, Officer Porter exercised reasonable discretion and good judgment considering the circumstances by detaining a resistant suspect and by informing the van’s driver of the need for medical attention at an appropriate time.  Longo addressed allegations that Porter should have buckled Gray in by saying the arresting officers are required to use circumstance and discretion when faced with orders issued by Baltimore PD requiring detainees be buckled because those rules “don’t create a higher standard in criminal or civil proceedings.  They’re clearly administrative in purpose.”

Longo also told jurors that Officer Porter could have gotten on the radio sooner to request medical attention, but ultimately was acting under the authority of his fellow officer Caesar Goodson who was driving the van and in charge of the operation.  Defense attorneys also called neurosurgeon Dr. Matthew Ammerman as a medical expert witness to tell jurors there is nothing Porter could have done had he called for medical attention right away.  According to Dr. Ammerman’s forensic testimony, Gray’s neck injury was catastrophic and immediately paralyzed his ability to breathe, speak, and move.  Dr. Ammerman said this injury must have occurred after the fourth stop because Gray could still communicate at that time.

Jurors were unable to reach a verdict against Officer Porter after more than 16 hours of deliberations.  The State has an opportunity to retry the officer, but has not announced a decision at this time.  All of the other officers, including Caesar Goodson, will face criminal prosecution in the near future for their role.

Police Tactics Expert Witness Testifies in Trial of North Carolina Officer who Killed Unarmed Suspect

A North Carolina police officer accused of excessive force in the shooting death of an unarmed black suspect in September of 2013 called an expert witness in police tactics to bolster his defense before closing arguments.  The defense expert was called to counter testimony from prosecution expert witnesses who explained that the officer used unreasonable force when he deployed his firearm.  The jury will deliberate this week to determine if the officer is guilty.

Prosecutors in North Carolina Police Shooting Argue Excessive Force

On September 14th, 2013 Jonathan Ferrell, a black resident of North Carolina, crashed his car on a dark patch of road in eastern Charlotte.  Ferrell walked to a nearby house to ask for aid, but the homeowner called 911 to report a possible burglary.  Police responded to the scene minute later, and without approaching or verbally addressing Ferrell one officer fired a Taser shot at him.  After the Taser shot missed, Officer Randall Kerrick opened fire with his pistol hitting Ferrell 10 times and killing him.

Kerrick was subsequently suspended from the police force, arrested, and charged with using excessive force to cause Ferrell’s death.  Prosecutors have argued throughout the trial that Kerrick had no reason to resort to lethal force in addressing the potential suspect, and that his use of a firearm was unnecessary and criminally excessive.  As part of the prosecution’s case, police captain Mike Campagna testified as an expert in the department’s use of force training and procedures by telling jurors that Kerrick should have turned to non-lethal force in an effort to subdue the suspect.

Prosecutors largely ignored the racial component of the trial (Kerrick is white while Ferrell was black), instead focusing on the fundamental principles of police use of force in situations like the one Kerrick faced.  Arguing that the officer inappropriately resorted to using his gun, state attorneys told jurors in closing arguments that lethal force was uncalled for and excessive to the point where Kerrick deserved a conviction.

Defense Attorneys for NC Police Officer Call Use of Force Expert Witness

Throughout the trial, Kerrick’s attorneys have argued that the officer was justified in using deadly force because he had reason to feel threatened by Ferrell.  Showing jurors the dented front door of the house that Ferrell had pounded on and pointing out that the suspect, who was a former football player and physically intimidating, had been intoxicated at the time of the incident, Kerrick’s lawyers painted a scene where Ferrell was threatening and approaching the officers with apparent intent to harm them.  The defense argued that Kerrick’s belief that he needed to use deadly force was reasonable given the circumstances the officer found himself in.

To bolster justification for Kerrick’s actions, defense attorneys called Dave Cloutier who is a police training expert witness with knowledge of proper police use of force procedure.  According to Cloutier, Kerrick’s decision to deploy deadly force to subdue Ferrell was consistent with the department’s training.  Cloutier has been an instructor to North Carolina police, and pointed out during his testimony that the evidence suggested Ferrell was running towards the officers at the time of the shooting.  According to Cloutier’s expert opinion, a suspect running at an officer with apparent intent to injure him would justify use of deadly force.

Police scientist Eve Rossi was called as a DNA expert witness to conclude the defense’s case by testifying that Ferrell’s DNA was found on Kerrick’s gun and Kerrick’s DNA was found under Ferrell’s fingernails.  Taking the testimony of its lead expert witnesses together, defense attorneys argue that the physical evidence supports Kerrick’s position that Ferrell was approaching him with possible intent to take his weapon which justified use of deadly force by the officer.  The testimony of these two expert witnesses for the defense is likely to play a significant role in the jury’s verdict that will be announced later this week.  If convicted, Kerrick faces up to 11 years in prison for the shooting.


Police Tactics Expert Witnesses Testifies During Cop Criminal Trial

A police tactics expert witness testified at the trial of an officer accused of excessive and unnecessary use of force in the death a 95-year-old man during a nursing home incident.  The incident taking place in a Chicago suburb gained national attention in 2013, and the resulting criminal trial featured expert police testimony this week that supported the prosecution’s case that the officer in question went too far in exercising his authority to use force.

Officer in Beanbag Shooting Death Faces Trial

Officer Craig Taylor came to trial for shooting John Wrana with 5 beanbag bullets during a confrontation in 2013.  The unfortunate incident between the World War II veteran and the Park Forest, Illinois officer started when Taylor was one of several officers to respond to a 911 call from staff at the Victory Center Retirement home.  According to Victory Center staff, Wrana resisted a risky surgical procedure due to fear of ending up on life support, becoming agitated, combative, and threatening before striking an EMT on the scene.  The first officers arriving on the scene confronted Wrana in his nursing home apartment in an effort to calm him down, but retreated after the 95-year old threatened them with what appeared to be a knife.

As the confrontation escalated, the responding officers called for backup, and Officer Taylor joined the scene along with Commander Michael Baugh, who brought a riot shield and a 12-gauge beanbag shotgun.  After Wrana’s continued refusal to resolve the situation, the officers entered the apartment using Baugh’s riot shield and attempted to neutralize Mr. Wrana by use of a Taser.  When the Taser charge failed, Officer Taylor directly ordered Wrana to drop the weapon before firing five beanbag rounds at him from a distance of 6 – 8 feet.  After refusing surgery, Wrana died from his wounds at a local hospital.

Officer Taylor testified that he was afraid for his life and the life of his fellow officers, and believed that it was reasonable to discharge his less-lethal weapon at a suspect who was threatening violence and refusing to comply with police orders.  Prosecutors disagreed during trial, and presented evidence in the form of expert witness testimony that argued that the confrontation was escalated by Officer Taylor unnecessarily.

Police Expert Witness Testifies Officer Used Excessive Force

To bolster its case that Officer Taylor used excessive and unnecessary force, the prosecution called to the stand Frank Murphy, a former New Jersey cop who now works as a police tactics expert witness.  After reviewing the facts of the Wrana shooting, Murphy testified, “There was no threat until Officer Craig Taylor and the others confronted him.”  Finding that Officer Taylor and his colleagues went too far, Murphy’s expert testimony criticized the police for not choosing to rely on their riot shield, which could block a knife attack, to approach Wrana and subdue him without use of beanbag bullet shotgun.

Defense attorneys for Officer Taylor offered a vigorous cross examination of the prosecution’s police tactics expert witness, using the opportunity to point out that Taylor believed he had been following procedure and that there were risks of injury to Wrana by Murphy’s proposed use of the riot shield.  Murphy maintained that, in his opinion, the situation was only elevated to the level of violence due to Taylor’s unnecessary use of the beanbag shotgun that led to Wrana’s death.  The use of a beanbag weapon was, according to Murphy’s expert testimony, an excessive and unnecessary use of force.

Defense Argues Victim Declined Life Saving Procedure

An interesting side note to the trial that may minimize the impact of Murphy’s police tactics expert testimony is the defense’s argument that ultimately Wrana’s refusal of surgery after the shooting was what caused his death.  During testimony from one of the doctors on scene at the Victory Center home, it was revealed that Wrana repeatedly denied life-saving measures to remedy the injuries sustained during his confrontation with police.  Defense attorneys for Officer Taylor will likely present a medical expert witness to establish Wrana could have survived, meaning the actions of the police were not the ultimate cause of the 95-year-old’s death.

If a jury accepts Murphy’s expert testimony that Officer Taylor acted with excessive and unnecessary force, and also accepts that Wrana would have lived if he had accepted medical attention, then the officer on trial would likely face lesser consequences.  While he still may have acted excessively, which is a matter of debate considering Wrana’s role in the incident, Officer Taylor may not have been ultimately at fault for causing death.  As with all police-use-of-force trials, the prosecution’s case rests heavily on its police tactic expert witness, but in this particular case a medical expert will also impact the outcome.