Key hearing in case of ex-Grand Rapids cop who killed Patrick Lyoya delayed two months

The trial of former Grand Rapids police officer Christopher Schurr for shooting and killing 26-year-old Congolese refugee Patrick Lyoya on April 4 is moving very slowly through Michigan courts.

A TV screen shows video evidence of Schurr grappling with and shooting Patrick Lyoya (Grand Rapids Police Department)

Although Schurr was charged with second degree murder by the Kent County prosecutor on June 9, the date of his preliminary examination has been moved twice and is now scheduled for August 30. discovered in the case.

Although no details of this discovery have been revealed, it appears that Schurr’s lawyers are gathering evidence to support their defense case that the former officer was justified in killing Lyoya because he was following court procedure. department and feared for his life.

According to Michigan law, a preliminary investigation is held to verify that a crime has taken place and that the accused is more likely than not the person who committed the crime. Although Michigan has a 14-day rule that a preliminary hearing must occur within that time after arrest, it is almost always delayed in murder cases. The prosecution did not object to the delay.

The brutal murder of Lyoya, who Schurr shot in the back of the head after a physical altercation during a traffic stop, was captured on dashcam, bodycam and smartphone video. After a short chase and a struggle for the officer’s Taser, Schurr tackled Lyoya to the ground and shot him in the back of the head, killing him instantly.

Initially, it took over two months for Kent County District Attorney Chris Becker to announce that Schurr was charged with murder. Schurr was then arraigned on June 10 where he pleaded not guilty and was released on $100,000 bond. Then, on June 15, Grand Rapids City Manager Mark Washington announced he was firing Schurr, effective June 10.

Schurr’s case is being tried in the 61st District Court in Grand Rapids by Judge Nicholas Ayoub. On June 21, Ayoub presided over a probable cause hearing at which Schurr was not present. Chris Becker explained that due to the pandemic, the presence of the defendant at this hearing was not required.

During the hearing, Ayoub issued an order in which he prohibited outbursts and emotional displays in the courtroom. The ban was imposed after verbal clashes between Schurr supporters and protesters at the June 10 impeachment hearing where more than 60 people, including uniformed police, came out in support of Schurr. However, no protesters or demonstrators were present during the June 21 hearing.

Matt Borgula, one of Schurr’s attorneys, told the Detroit News that the purpose of Ayoub’s order is “so that the process in this country, this justice system, can unfold and not turn into some kind of sideshow outside of court.” You can’t have people standing everywhere and you can’t have public displays or verbal displays either.

When Becker announced the charges, he explained the elements required to prove second-degree murder. A death must have occurred caused by the accused who intended to kill or inflict grievous bodily harm that would result in death. Finally, according to Becker, guilt requires “that the death was not justified or excused”.

It is on this last point that Schurr’s lawyers will contest the charges. They argue that Schurr followed department rules and was justified in his use of force. They said Lyoya’s death was not a murder, “but an unfortunate tragedy”.

They went on to say, “Mr. Lyoya took full control of a police officer’s gun while resisting arrest, causing Officer Schurr to fear serious bodily harm or death. In fact, the unnamed weapon mentioned by Schurr’s lawyers was the officer’s Taser.

Borgula predicted that Schurr would be acquitted: “You all saw the video. You’ve seen every step Officer Schurr took along the way. And when we have a jury trial with all the evidence, after we’ve had a chance to review it, we’re very confident that a jury will find him not guilty.

However, when pressed about the difficulty of convincing a jury that the execution-style killing of Lyoya, an unarmed man, was justified, Borgula was far more reserved. “Do you want me to give you a closing statement now?” We’re not going to because we haven’t seen all the evidence yet. But obviously it’s hard to convince 12 people on the street of anything.

Borgula went on to talk about the burden of proof in this case saying it is the government’s obligation to “prove beyond reasonable doubt that it was murder. It’s not up to us to prove he was innocent. We believe he is innocent and we believe it was a justified action in the line of duty.

The local police union of course supports Schurr. On April 26, the Grand Rapids Police Officer Association (GRPOA) released a rambling statement that talked about everything Lyoya “might” have been or “might” have done if Officer Schurr hadn’t shot him in the face. neck.

The statement, which does not mention Lyoya by name, casts him as a criminal with a history of violence. The GRPOA’s homepage has a large section devoted to Schurr, in which they suggest “prayer” and “financial assistance” as ways to help the former officer.

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