ATV jury to enter 3rd day of deliberations Wednesday
The jury in the trial of a former Michigan State Police trooper charged in the death of a Detroit teenager left for the day Tuesday without reaching a verdict.
Jurors are due back in court at 9 a.m. Wednesday for a third day of deliberations after saying at lunchtime Tuesday they were deadlocked and not able to reach a verdict.
The jury, which is made up of six men and six women, deliberated Tuesday from shortly after 9 a.m. until about 12:40 p.m., when jurors came out and informed the judge that they were deadlocked. Judge Margaret Van Houten instructed the panel to resume deliberations after lunch.
The jury deliberated Tuesday until 3:40 p.m. Earlier in the day, the panel sent a note pertaining to jury instructions.
The jury seated in Wayne County Circuit Court is deciding whether to acquit or convict 44-year-old Mark Bessner of second-degree murder or involuntary manslaughter for the death of 15-year-old Damon Grimes on Aug. 26, 2017.
Grimes was driving an ATV when Bessner and his partner gave chase in the area of Rossini and Gratiot. Bessner Tased the teen and seconds later the teen crashed into a parked pickup on Rossini around 5:30 p.m. that day.
Bessner testified last week that he deployed his Taser because he believed his life and that of his partner, who refused to testify during the trial, were in danger. The former trooper said he saw Grimes reaching his left hand toward his waistband. Several witnesses testified before Bessner's testimony that they did not see Grimes' hands leave the handlebars of the ATV that day.
Assistant Wayne County Prosecutor Matthew Penney said during his closing arguments Monday there was no justification for the Taser to be deployed. Penney said the only thing Grimes was guilty of was riding an ATV in the city, which is a nuisance violation.
Penney said Bessner had no "reasonability" to use deadly force that day, saying he didn't yell "gun, gun, gun" on his mike to dispatchers.
"Does he sound stressed?" Penney asked. "Where’s the explanation? It's not there."
Bessner's defense attorney, Richard Convertino, told jurors during closing arguments that they must not view Bessner's actions with "20/20 hindsight." The defense attorney said his client was forced to make a "split-second decision" in a tense, uncertain and "rapidly evolving" situation.
"You must judge Bessner on the circumstances that appeared to him," Convertino told jurors Monday. "It’s a tragic decision. It's a horrendous decision but it’s a decision he felt he was forced to make."
Convertino showed video from Bessner's scout car of Grimes on the back and his hands second before he crashed.
Convertino told the jury: "It’s simple and straightforward. Was (Mark) Bessner justified in firing his Taser? Did he believe the life of he and his partner was in ... danger? That's the question."
The jury began deliberating Monday and requested to see the Taser and its probes.
Members deliberated for 3 1/2 hours before leaving for the day.
If convicted of the murder charge, Bessner could spend life behind bars. If convicted of involuntary manslaughter, he faces up to 15 years in prison.
If there is a mistrial because the jury can't reach a verdict, another trial would be scheduled for Bessner unless the prosecutor dismisses the charges — something many view as highly unlikely.