Tag Archives: use of force expert witness

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 Use of Force Expert Witnesses Debate Interrogation Tactics

Two conflicting use of force experts testified in the trial of a former Milwaukee detective who stands accused of assault for a violent confrontation with a suspect during an interrogation.  The trial of Rodolfo Gomez, Jr. will turn on whether jurors determine the former officer was justified in punching and physically subduing a suspect who became angry during a tense questioning session, and both sides called experts to directly argue the crucial point.

Milwaukee Detective Charged with Prisoner Abuse

In August, 2013, Gomez was interrogating Milwaukee resident Deron Love who was accused of fatally abusing his infant son.  During the questioning, Love had one of his arms handcuffed to the table, but the two men nonetheless engaged in an increasingly heated exchange throughout the session.  Video evidence presented during trial showed Love standing up to shout at Gomez, and the detective responding by punching the suspect in the face, forcing Love into a corner, and punching and kneeing him a few more times before leaving the room.

According to Gomez, he forgot that Love was handcuffed to the table and was responding to a legitimate threat of potential violence from a suspect who was bigger and stronger than him.  Gomez stated that Love refused to comply with an order to sit back down, creating the necessity for him to physically neutralize the suspect before the interrogation got further out of hand.  Gomez testified that he did not intend to use force against Love, but was forced into the situation by Love’s outburst.

Love, who was not seriously injured by Gomez, was acquitted of all charges in the death of his infant after a trial in September of last year.  As a result of the incident, Gomez was immediately suspended and later fired from the Milwaukee police force before being formally tried with two felony charges – misconduct in office and abuse of a prisoner.

Police Use of Force Experts Testify During Former Officer Trial

Prosecutors and defense attorneys called expert witnesses to testify about whether or not former Milwaukee detective Rodolfo Gomez, Jr. used appropriate force during his interrogation of a suspect in August of 2013.  Prosecutors called Lt. James MacGillis, who trains the Milwaukee police department in appropriate use of force, who testified that jurors should examine Gomez’s actions on the whole rather than at an individual level.  According to MacGillis, some of the punches and kicks against Love may be justified when analyzed alone, but the overall interaction was evident of excessive and unlawful use of force.

Defense expert witness Robert Willis took the opposite approach, and broke down the interaction frame by frame to explain that at each point Detective Gomez was justified in responding to an unruly and potentially threatening suspect.  According to Willis, a handful of the supposed punches that Gomez threw were actually attempts at openhanded grabs that missed their mark – indicating that the former officer was trying to subdue Love rather than attack him.  Willis counted only three punches and one knee strike, and testified that all were within Gomez’s authority to try to control a suspect who had just jumped up and angrily shouted at him.

The trial will likely conclude this week, but the expert witnesses testifying to Gomez’s use of force may get another crack at the case due to the civil lawsuit that Love filed against Gomez following the incident.