PHOENIX (KSAZ) - It has been a long, emotional, and complicated murder trial. Now, the fate of ex-Mesa Police officer Philip Brailsford is in the hands of the jury.
Brailsford is charged with second-degree murder in the January 2016 shooting death of Daniel Shaver, at a Mesa Hotel. Brailsford served as a Mesa policeman for about two years before he was fired for violations of departmental policy, including unsatisfactory performance.
On Tuesday, closing arguments for the trial were wrapped up, but in an unusual move Wednesday, the judge called everyone back to the courtroom, to hear another round of closing arguments.
The state asked for a change in the wording of one of the juror instructions. So, the judge had to explain the change, and the attorneys were given time to make another closing argument based on that change.
The issue was about the instructions on how to determine if the police shooting was justified. The crux of the issue is whether Brailsford was justified in shooting and killing Daniel Shaver, in this particular situation. The jury has to decide if this shooting met certain criteria, a long list of criteria, to consider the shooting justified.
The instructions are detailed, and include wording such as:
- "The defendant must have believed physical force was necessary to protect himself or others from the imminent or apparent imminent use of deadly force."
- "You must measure the defendant's belief, according to what a reasonable police officer would believe."
The words "according to what a reasonable police officer would believe" was added, meaning the jury is instructed to hold Brailsford to a higher standard than a regular citizen, because officers have special training in these situations.
Brailsford testified, saying that he believed Shaver may have been reaching for a gun when Shaver moved his right hand toward his waistband. That was why, according to Brailsford, he opened fire.
The State pointed out that five other officers did not fire or use deadly force, asserting that those other officers on the scene acted reasonably, and Brailsford was not acting reasonably.
The jury has several options. If Brailsford is found guilty of Second Degree Murder, he faces a maximum sentence of 25 years in prison. If found not guilty, the jury can also find Brailsford guilty, or not guilty, of the lesser charge of manslaughter.
The jury deliberated for a couple of hours on Wednesday.
The Associated Press (AP) contributed to this report.