Jury in ATV death retrial to see video of prior chase
A judge ruled Friday that jurors in Mark Bessner's retrial will see video footage that shows the former state trooper talking about using his Taser on an ATV rider two weeks before he allegedly fired the device at a teenage motorist, causing the youth's death.
Bessner, 44, is set to be tried for a second time next month on charges of second-degree murder and involuntary manslaughter in connection with the death of 15-year-old Damon Grimes on Aug. 26, 2017.
According to authorities, Bessner was riding in a scout car with his partner and deployed his Taser at Grimes, who was riding an ATV, during a pursuit on the city's east side. Shortly after being struck by the stun gun's prongs, Grimes ran into a parked truck and was killed.
Judge Margaret Van Houten of Wayne County Circuit Court approved prosecution motions to introduce in-car video and audio footage of Bessner recorded when he and his partner came upon a caravan of ATV riders on Fort Street on Aug. 12, 2017.
The troopers, according to court records, began pursuing one of the the ATVs after the rider "pops a wheelie."
In the videos, Bessner is allegedly heard talking about using a Taser on the driver, who eluded Bessner and his partner after they put their lights and sirens on.
"There is a clear statement by the defendant: 'I was kinda of hoping we'd get close enough that we could Tase that guy once we stopped,'" Van Houten said. "It was clearly the defendant's face ... on the video. I think that statement is very relevant to the issues at hand in this case."
Prosecutors say the Aug. 12 incident involving Bessner and his partner was discovered after the his first trial, which ended in October with a hung jury.
Bessner testified last fall that he deployed his Taser at Grimes because he believed his life and that of his partner, who refused to testify during the trial, was in danger. The former trooper also 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.
The former trooper's retrial is scheduled to begin April 8.
Both sides have asked for a list of the jury pool. Assistant Wayne County Prosecutor Matthew Penney has requested that he be allowed to ask potential jurors whether they are comfortable with convicting a police officer.
Defense attorney Richard Convertino objected, saying the question is "not necessary."