How Often Do Police Officers Testify in Their Defense?

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How Often Do Police Officers Testify in Their Defense?

Although Derek Chauvin has opted not to testify in his defense against charges that he murdered George Floyd, police officers have taken the stand in their own defense. The results have been mixed. Here are a few examples:

Jason Van Dyke, on trial in Chicago in 2018 for the murder of Laquan McDonald, gave testimony that some said dehumanized the victim. “His face had no expression,” Mr. Van Dyke said of Mr. McDonald. “His eyes were just bugging out of his head. He had these huge white eyes just staring right through me.”

His account contradicted the video. “The video doesn’t show my perspective,” he told the jury.

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Outcome: Convicted of murder, sentenced to nearly 7 years.

Mohamed Noor, on trial in Minneapolis in 2019 for the murder of Justine Ruszczyk, who had called 911 to report hearing a potential sexual assault, described his anguish after learning that he had shot an unarmed resident. “It felt like my whole world came crashing down,” he said.

On cross-examination, he was forced to admit that he had never seen Ms. Ruszczyk’s hands. “I had to make a split-second decision,” he said.

Outcome: Convicted of murder, sentenced to 12 years.

Michael Slager, on trial in Charleston, S.C., in 2016 for the murder of Walter L. Scott as he fled from a traffic stop, told the jury that he had nightmares after the shooting. “I fired until the threat was stopped, like I’m trained to do,” he said.

Outcome: Hung jury. Mr. Slager pleaded guilty to a federal civil rights violation and was sentenced to 20 years.

Betty Jo Shelby, on trial in Tulsa, Okla., in 2017 for the shooting death of Terence Crutcher, an unarmed driver, said she did what she was trained to do if she believed someone had a gun.

“I have all the indications that he has a gun,” she said. “I do not pull a Taser out, which is less lethal. I meet a gun with a gun.”

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Outcome: Acquitted.

Jeronimo Yanez, on trial in St. Paul, Minn., in 2017 for the shooting death of a motorist, Philando Castile, said he feared for his life.

“I had no other choice. I was forced to engage Mr. Castile. He was not complying with my directions,” Mr. Yanez said. Mr. Yanez was on the lookout for suspects in an armed robbery, and said that Mr. Castile “gave me a deer-in-the-headlights look. It’s a trigger.”

Outcome: Acquitted.

Shaila Dewan and Tim Arango
This article originally appeared on NYT > U.S. News


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