Testimony on Day 3 of Rosfeld trial concludes with use-of-force expert | TribLIVE.com
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The homicide trial of former East Pittsburgh police officer Michael Rosfeld entered its third day on Thursday. Proceedings got underway around 9 a.m. in Room 323 of the Allegheny County Courthouse.

Rosfeld is accused of shooting Antwon Rose II three times as he ran from a June 19 traffic stop in East Pittsburgh. Rose and Zaijuan Hester were passengers in a vehicle suspected in a drive-by shooting minutes earlier. Hester pleaded guilty last week to the drive-by shooting.

Common Pleas Judge Alexander Bicket is presiding over Rosfeld’s trial. Chief Trial Deputy District Attorney Daniel Fitzsimmons and Assistant District Attorney Jonathan Fodi are prosecuting the case. Patrick Thomassey is representing Rosfeld, who faces a single count of homicide that gives the jury the option of convicting him of first-, second- or third-degree murder, voluntary manslaughter or involuntary manslaughter.

Witnesses so far Thursday have included:

  • Raymond Everett of the Allegheny County Medical Examiner’s forensic lab
  • Jason Clark, a fingerprint analyst with the Allegheny County crime lab
  • James Holman, a detective with Allegheny County police
  • Michael Rosfeld, the defendant, a former East Pittsburgh police officer
  • Clifford Jobe, a use of force expert called by the defense
•••

7 p.m.

S. Lee Merritt, an attorney for Rose’s family, talked to the media after testimony concluded. Merritt said that Rosfeld did not justify his use of deadly force.

“What he failed to articulate was any justification, or specifically a threat, to his life or to the community that would warrant the use of deadly force,” Merritt said. “He imagined a threat. And I want to be clear that the only threat that he articulated was one that he imagined.”

•••

6:20 p.m.

Community members who knew Rose, including Gisele Fetterman, wife of former Braddock mayor and current Lt. Gov. John Fetterman, talked to the media after court Thursday.

•••

6 p.m.

The last witness for the day was a use-of-force expert called by the defense. Cliff Jobe, a former Pennsylvania state trooper and an instructor for 22 years, said that Rosfeld used reasonable force based on his training.

Jobe said he based his conclusions on Rosfeld’s testimony that he saw the teens fleeing the car as a threat and thought he saw a threatening gesture. If those things weren’t true, Rosfeld would not have acted within his training, Jobe said.

Jobe told Assistant District Attorney Jonathan Fodi during cross-examination that in the 41 cases he lists on his resume, he has never testified against a police officer.

Court will continue Friday at 9 a.m. with more questions for Jobe from Fodi.

•••

3:30 p.m.

Rosfeld took the stand in his own defense Thursday afternoon, testifying that he thought one of the teens fleeing the car he stopped pointed a handgun at him.

“Why did you fire?” Thomassey asked Rosfeld.

“Because I thought one of the suspects was pointing a gun at me,” Rosfeld replied.

Rosfeld told the jury one of the teens made a threatening gesture toward him, but he wasn’t sure which. He said he thought one had a handgun so he turned and fired three shots.

Thomassey asked why Rosfeld fired three times, killing Rose. Rosfeld said he fired until he “no longer sensed a threat.”

Rosfeld added that he believed the two teens, Rose and Hester, were involved in a violent crime when they fled.

During cross-examination, Fitzsimmons pushed Rosfeld for details.

“I just remember turning, pointing and shooting,” Rosfeld said, answering questions about whether he was aiming in a particular direction.

Fitzsimmons asked again whether he was aiming.

“My intent was to end the threat that I perceived against me,” Rosfeld said.

Rosfeld said that once he trained his gun on the fleeing teens, he couldn’t see if the one he thought made a threatening gesture was still making that gesture.

Rosfeld told Fitzsimmons he thought one of the two had a handgun.

Fitzsimmons pressed.

“Did you see anyone in that car in possession of a weapon, yes or no?” he asked.

“No,” Rosfeld said.

Rosfeld testified for about an hour and a half.

•••

1:32 p.m.

Rosfeld tells the judge he wants to testify.

Before the trial started, the Tribune-Review asked legal experts about the risks involved in letting Rosfeld testify.

•••

1:20 p.m.

The memorial for Rose outside the courthouse has grown.

•••

Noon

Thomassey moved for a judgment of acquittal after prosecutors rested their case, arguing that prosecutors offered no evidence that Rosfeld committed a crime. The jury was recessed for lunch just before noon.

The motion is standard one made by defense attorneys after prosecutors rest their case.

“He’s a police officer doing his job, and he kills a fleeing felon and now they want to prosecute him,” Thomassey told Bicket.

Bicket said he’d think about it over lunch.

Thomassey said that at the very least, the jury should not have the option of weighing any murder charges.

Fitzsimmons cited case law indicating that malice needed for first- or third-degree murder is implied when “one intentionally uses a deadly weapon upon a vital part of the body of another.”

He said shots to Rose’s face and back qualified as vital.

•••

11:50 a.m

James Holman, an Allegheny County Police detective, was the last witness called by prosecutors.

Holman, who was responsible for audio, video and still-image analysis in the investigation, testified about a 30-second cellphone video of the shooting — focusing primarily on a 5.5-second section capturing the sound of gunshots.

Using a graph depicting sound waves, Holman showed the first gunshot sounded 3.9 seconds into the recording. The third and final shot was fired at 4.9 seconds.

On cross-examination from Thomassey, Holman confirmed that the three shots were fired within approximately 1 second.

The prosecution rested its case after Holman’s testimony. Court is breaking for lunch. The defense will start calling witnesses this afternoon.

•••

11:25 a.m.

Jason Clark, a fingerprint analyst with the Allegheny County crime lab, testified about fingerprints and palm prints taken from the interior and exterior of the Chevy Cruze in which Hester and Rose were riding. Hester’s prints were found on the interior door handle on the rear passenger door and the exterior handle of the front passenger door.

Rose’s fingerprints were not found in the car, he said.

Thomassey asked if someone could be in a vehicle and not leave fingerprints. Clark said yes.

•••

11:10 a.m.

Testimony began Thursday morning with Raymond Everett of the Allegheny County Medical Examiner’s forensic lab. Everett testified for about an hour. He talked about the recovery of bullets, bullet fragments and casings from the East Pittsburgh shooting scene.

He described how the firearms evidence removed from the scene and the car in which Rose was riding were not all relate0d to each other. He also explained the mechanics of firearms.

Everett discussed a 9mm Glock magazine recovered from Rose’s pants pocket at UPMC McKeesport. He testified that the magazine does not fit in the .40-caliber S&W Glock handgun used by Hester in the North Braddock drive-by shooting that preceded the East Pittsburgh traffic stop.

•••

11:05 a.m.

There were problems with smoke in the overflow courtroom. A heating and cooling unit started smoking. Deputies quickly turned it off. Nobody was injured.

•••


DAY 2 COVERAGE

Witnesses: Rosfeld was crying, shaking, panicking, distraught after shooting Rose
Testimony concludes on Day 2 of Rosfeld trial; Prosecution could finish Thursday
Legal opinions vary on significance of testimony about Rosfeld’s emotions
Letter from Antwon Rose’s mother to prosecutors doesn’t indicate rift, experts say


Megan Guza and Jamie Martines are Tribune-Review staff writers. You can contact Megan at 412-380-8519, [email protected] or via Twitter @meganguzaTrib. You can contact Jamie at 724-850-2867, [email protected] or via Twitter @Jamie_Martines.

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