The script, if you've been around cop trials in Dallas or anywhere else over the last several years, is easy to follow.
Derick Wiley, the former Mesquite Police Department officer on trial for aggravated assault by a public servant, shot Lyndo Jones twice in the back as Jones ran away from him. While those two facts — along with a video of Wiley screaming at Jones to "stay on the ground before I fucking shoot you" — might lead one to believe that Wiley acted recklessly or perhaps criminally, his defense team insists he was acting appropriately given the circumstances and is merely the subject of an overzealous prosecution.
Under cross-examination from Wiley's attorneys Wednesday, an MPD investigator told jurors that he believed Wiley acted "reasonably" given the events that led up to the shooting, according to reporters in the courtroom. Wiley's aggression in approaching Jones was fine, given that Jones wasn't wearing a shirt in 40 degree weather and was moving around in his truck, the investigator said. So was Wiley's swearing at Jones.
“Police officers — we cuss,” Detective Brent Ehrenberger said. “Sometimes cuss words can be more persuasive than polite language.”
It was also reasonable, given the video from Wiley's body camera, that the officer believed Jones had a gun, something that Wiley has insisted throughout his prosecution.
Borrowing a tactic from the public defense of Michael Dunn, the Farmers Branch police officer indicted for murder by a Dallas County grand jury last month, the defense also pushed Ehrenberger on the speed with which Wiley was indicted. Ehrenberger said that in his 18 years as a police officer, he'd never had an investigation make it to a grand jury more quickly than the 20 days it took in Wiley's case.
The Dallas County District Attorney's Office was involved in the case from the beginning, he said. At the time, Republican Faith Johnson was the district attorney. She's since been replaced by Democrat John Creuzot.
Prosecutors' primary expert witness in the case, Jonathyn Priest, disagreed with Ehrenberger.
“Based on my background, my training, my experience, the shooting was unreasonable,” Priest said.
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Mesquite police made a key mistake in their investigation, he said, when they allowed Wiley to watch video of the incident before they questioned him about the shooting.
The trial for the cop that shot #LyndoJones in the back because he suspected him of stealing his own car is underway. This video was just released. Lyndo complies to every command until he steps on the back of his neck. Then he stands up and put his hands in the air. He’s shot 2x pic.twitter.com/I2cAGZ0KBQ— S. Lee Merritt, Esq. (@MeritLaw) September 18, 2018
Wiley is expected to testify in his own defense Thursday. During his first trial last year, he insisted that he believed his life was in danger, even as Jones ran away from him. That's a common strategy, Philip Stinson, a Bowling Green State University criminologist who maintains a comprehensive database of alleged crimes committed by cops, told the Observer ahead of Balch Springs Police officer Roy Oliver's murder trial in 2017.
"We've seen in several cases recently that have resulted in mistrials with a hung jury, the officer will get on the witness stand in their own defense at a trial and say, 'I thought my life was in danger,'" Stinson said. "As soon as some jurors hear that, they think, 'That's it, I'm not going to convict a cop who thought his life was in danger.'"