Did former East Pittsburgh Police Officer Michael Rosfeld act recklessly in shooting a fleeing Antwon Rose, or did he have reason to believe Rose was armed and a threat to the community? An out-of-county jury must decide.
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The fact that Rosfeld shot Rose is not in dispute; a jury must decide if it was justified. Trial lawyer Bill Difenderfer says the prosecution can make a very strong case on the basis of video alone. Cell phone video shows Rosfeld shooting Rose three times in the back.
"You're going to have jurors just with common sense going, you know, why did you have to-- you don't see any weapons, you didn't see anything. The kid was running away. You weren't in any danger, officer. You know what I mean?" Difenderfer said.
But defense attorney Patrick Thomassey will argue that although Rose did not have a gun on him when he was shot, Rosfeld had reason to believe he was armed and dangerous. The defense will be hammering video taken moments before the fatal traffic stop of a drive-by shooting in which Rose was a passenger. Rose did not do the shooting, but Thomassey will argue he was a willing participant in an attempted murder.
"That's a specific intent to kill," Difenderfer said, "so if Mr. Thomassey can show that, it's compelling, very compelling."
Monday, Judge Alexander Bicket indicated he will allow all evidence related to the drive-by shooting but not evidence five hours before when Thomassey maintains that Rose was involved in an armed robbery.
The judge says he'll decide later under which statutes he will instruct the jury. Thomassey wants to restrict their consideration to first-degree murder, which would require pre-meditation, though it's more likely the jury will decide on third-degree charges, which would mean the officer acted with recklessness and malice.
The jury arrived Monday from Harrisburg and is being sequestered in a downtown hotel. Opening statements are scheduled to begin at 9 a.m. Tuesday and the judge has told them they'll be working long days for a week or more.
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