Chrisman trial: Jury could begin deliberations soon - New York News

Ex-cop's lawyer attacks key witness, his partner

Posted: Updated:

By BOB CHRISTIE
Associated Press

PHOENIX (AP) -- A jury on Tuesday began deliberating the fate of a former Phoenix police officer charged with fatally shooting an unarmed suspect and his dog.

The deliberations came after the defense attorney for now-fired officer Richard Chrisman said the defendant's partner made up a story that led to the charges, and the prosecutor said the partner stood up and told the truth after seeing a crime.

Attorney Craig Mehrens told jurors that officer Sergio Virgillo's testimony was designed to protect him from allegations he left his partner alone in a dangerous situation because he was himself scared. His client acted in self-defense, he said.

"I think there's good reason to believe that what you heard from officer Virgillo is not what happened," Mehrens said. "And what you heard from Mr. Chrisman is what he was trained to do."

Prosecutor Juan Martinez said the defense was trying to work around the facts to clear Chrisman.

"It is a nonsensical story that they have brought forth for you to consider," he told jurors.

Chrisman faces second-degree murder, aggravated assault and animal cruelty charges for the fatal October 2010 shootings of 29-year-old Danny Rodriguez and his dog. He has pleaded not guilty.

The former officer acknowledged under questioning last week that he was the aggressor in the early part of the confrontation but that he was just doing his job.

Chrisman and Virgillo were called to the south Phoenix trailer park by Rodriguez's mother, who told them her son was violent and had punched a hole in a wall.

Chrisman and Virgillo confronted Rodriguez at the door to the trailer, and Chrisman forced his way inside. Rodriguez asked to see a warrant, and prosecutors say Chrisman then put his pistol against his head and told him he didn't need one.

Mehrens says that didn't happen, but Martinez told jurors Tuesday that DNA on the officer's pistol and a bruise on the dead man's left temple shows it happened the way Virgillo testified.

The two officers then had difficulty controlling Rodriguez, and both fired their stun guns with little effect. Chrisman also used pepper spray on Rodriguez then shot his dog, who prosecutors say was not threatening the officers.

Virgillo said Rodriguez then got his bicycle and tried to leave the tiny trailer home, but Chrisman would not allow it and a tussle began.

Chrisman's lawyer said Virgillo fled the trailer home because he was scared and couldn't see the events that followed.

Chrisman testified that Rodriguez lifted up the bike and he thought he was going to use it to "smash my brains in," so he fired twice, hitting Rodriguez in the chest.

Martinez told jurors there was no sign the bicycle had been hit with gunshot residue, and that they should believe Virgillo's version -- that he saw what happened and Rodriguez's hands were up when he was shot. Mehrens said no tests were done on the bike and jurors can't speculate.

Mehrens told jurors there's just no reason a nine-year veteran officer who had never fired his gun in the line of duty would just snap one day and kill a suspect for no reason.

A second-degree murder conviction carries a 15- to 22-year prison sentence, but mitigating factors could reduce it to 10 years. Aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, the charge for allegedly putting the gun to Rodriguez's head, carries a 5- to 15- year sentence. The misdemeanor animal cruelty charge carries no jail time.

Follow this story:

Didn't find what
you were looking for?

  • Local NewsLocal NewsMore>>

  • Suspect, rookie officer both wounded in gunfire

    Suspect, rookie officer both wounded in gunfire

    Sunday, August 31 2014 10:11 PM EDT2014-09-01 02:11:38 GMT
    Authorities say an early morning gunfire exchange on a Brooklyn street has left the suspect hospitalized and a police officer with a graze wound.
    Authorities say an early morning gunfire exchange on a Brooklyn street has left the suspect hospitalized and a police officer with a graze wound.
  • New MTA bus routes take effect

    New MTA bus routes take effect

    Sunday, August 31 2014 9:51 PM EDT2014-09-01 01:51:36 GMT
    MTAMTA
    The MTA has new bus routes throughout the 5 boroughs. 
    The MTA has new bus routes throughout the 5 boroughs. 
  • 3 hurt in lightning strike as storms batter NYC area

    3 hurt in lightning strike as storms batter NYC area

    Sunday, August 31 2014 9:47 PM EDT2014-09-01 01:47:41 GMT
    Heavy thunderstorms swept through the tri-state on Sunday causing flash floods and lightning strikes that injured 3 people. The three men were struck at Orchard Beach in the Bronx Sunday afternoon and were being treated at a local hospital. Meanwhile, various Labor Day weekend celebrations were interrupted, delayed and even canceled as the U.S. Open tennis tournament had to be postponed and the Electric Zoo musical festival on Randall's Island had to be prematurely shut down.
    Heavy thunderstorms swept through the tri-state on Sunday causing flash floods and lightning strikes that injured 3 people. The three men were struck at Orchard Beach in the Bronx Sunday afternoon and were being treated at a local hospital. Meanwhile, various Labor Day weekend celebrations were interrupted, delayed and even canceled as the U.S. Open tennis tournament had to be postponed and the Electric Zoo musical festival on Randall's Island had to be prematurely shut down.
Powered by WorldNow
Didn't find what you were looking for?
All content © Copyright 2000 - 2014 Fox Television Stations, Inc. and Worldnow. All Rights Reserved.
Privacy Policy | New Terms of Service What's new | Ad Choices