Opening statements postponed at ex-officer’s murder trial
PHOENIX (AP) — Opening statements were postponed at the murder trial of a former Mesa police officer charged in a fatal shooting after his attorney asked a judge to forbid news organizations from broadcasting video of the deadly encounter.
Attorneys at Philip Brailsford’s trial were scheduled to address jurors Wednesday, but opening statements were rescheduled for Thursday to give Judge George Foster more time to rule on the request.
The former officer faces a murder charge in the January 2016 shooting death of Daniel Shaver of Granbury, Texas, at a hotel in Mesa. Officers went to the hotel on a call that someone was pointing a rifle out a window.
Brailsford, who has since been fired for policy violations, maintains the shooting was justified because he believed Shaver was reaching for a gun during the encounter.
While no weapons were found on Shaver’s body, two pellet rifles related to his pest-control job were later found in his hotel room.
The shooting occurred after Shaver exited his room and was ordered to lay face-down in a hotel hallway.
Authorities say the shooting wasn’t justified, pointing out that Shaver wasn’t voicing threats and was begging police not to shoot him.
Brailsford attorney Michael Piccarreta said broadcasting the body-camera footage before the trial’s conclusion could hurt his client’s fair-trial rights.
“I would urge the court that if this is publicly disseminated, I will be back here with issues — jurors seeing it on the news,” Piccarreta said.
The Associated Press and other news organizations contend the public has a First Amendment right to see the video. Attorneys representing Shaver’s survivors joined the news organizations in opposing Brailsford’s request.
David Bodney, an attorney representing the news organizations, said there wasn’t enough space in the small courtroom for interested members of the public to view the evidence, so broadcasting the video would let them view the footage.
A portion of the 18-minute video was previously released, but the trial would mark the first time that unedited footage of the shooting will be shown publicly.
The edited version showed officers taking cover in doorways and crouching down on their knees as they waited for Shaver to exit his hotel room. It ended when someone walks out of the room.
Another judge who released the edited video in May 2016 had said portions of footage should remain under seal until Brailsford’s trial to protect his right to a fair trial and impartial jury.
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