Legal opinions vary on significance of testimony about Rosfeld’s emotions |

Legal opinions vary on significance of testimony about Rosfeld’s emotions

Paul Guggenheimer
Former East Pittsburgh police officer Michael Rosfeld, charged with homicide in the shooting death of Antwon Rose II, walks to the Dauphin County Courthouse in Harrisburg on Tuesday, March 12, 2019, at the start of jury selection.

It’s unclear whether the prosecution or defense will benefit from Wednesday’s testimony about the emotional state of former East Pittsburgh police Officer Michael Rosfeld after he shot Antwon Rose II, based on analysis from two legal experts.

East Pittsburgh resident John Leach, a witness called by prosecutors, testified Wednesday that after the June 19 shooting, he could hear Rosfeld repeating, “I don’t know why I shot. I don’t know why I fired.”

Later, Leach said he saw Rosfeld leaning against a building, crying and hyperventilating.

“It undercuts malice. You certainly couldn’t get anything like a first-degree murder conviction or, I think, even a third-degree murder conviction if that’s the definitive testimony,” Duquesne University law professor Wes Oliver said.

“It’s one thing if he said afterward, ‘Yeah, I hated to have to do that, but I was afraid the guy with the gun was going to shoot somebody else,’” Oliver said. “Then that would mean it was a deliberate choice, a hard choice that he made in a split second.”

Oliver said Leach’s testimony seemed to indicate Rosfeld was regretting the decision and that he acted impulsively.

“Is that something that could be regarded as involuntary manslaughter? Yeah, it’s possible,” Oliver said. “It certainly goes against any of the most serious charges, first-degree or third-degree murder. But it still could be consistent with him acting unreasonably and impulsively, which potentially could be involuntary manslaughter.”

Bruce Antkowiak, a former federal prosecutor and law professor at Saint Vincent College, disagreed.

“It’s very difficult in a case where there’s three shots (fired) to argue that this was accidental; this was impulsive; this was something that didn’t occur without some thought being made,” Antkowiak said.

“You have a trained officer who pointed the gun, fired three shots. I don’t know that the defense was going to argue that this was an unfortunate action based upon an impulse,” Antkowiak said. “You have an intentional use of a firearm on a person.”

Paul Guggenheimer is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Paul at 724-226-7706 or [email protected].

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