CAMDEN COUNTY, Ga. — A jury is deciding the fate of former Kingsland police officer Zerchariah Presley, who’s facing voluntary manslaughter, involuntary manslaughter and oath of office violation charges for shooting and killing Tony Green in June 2018.
The jury reconvened in court once on Thursday to review video evidence, before deciding to suspend deliberations for the day. Deliberations will resume Friday morning.
CLOSING ARGUMENTS: The defense
The defense asked the jury to consider the totality of the evidence, which they say proves Green had attacked Presley, and shows Presley felt Green was trying to kill him when he fired his gun.
The defense argued Green got on top of Presley and tried to reach for his duty belt in the seconds before shots were fired.
Over the course of the trial, the defense showed pictures of the back of Presley’s shirt appearing to be dirty as evidence of the fight.
They say Green did not get off of Presley until he used his taser, causing Green to run out of Presley’s sight.
The defense argues when Presley next saw Green, he could see Green’s face and his extended arm holding something Presley felt may have been a weapon. It was then they say Presley fired eight shots, hitting Green in the chest, lower back and hips.
The defense argued the chest wound was evidence of Green facing toward Presley at the time of the shooting, and not running away.
The investigation revealed Green was holding a cell phone, and was not armed.
Prior to the foot chase, was the car chase, which ended when Green crashed his car into the brush, and he and another man ran out. Green would return to his vehicle get his cell phone before running away for a second time.
The defense told the jury Green going back to his car to retrieve something was alarming to Presley. They say Presley could not tell what Green had gotten out of the car because he was doing several things at once, including trying to park and turn on his body camera.
Law enforcement witnesses called by the defense in the evidence phase testified saying a person returning to their car during a traffic stop is a legitimate cause for concern for officers. They explained it’s impossible for law enforcement to know what a person may have in their vehicle.
The defense reminded the jury of this as they explained why Presley felt Green may have been armed.
Closing arguments: The State
The State’s prosecutors argue Presley shot Green as he was trying to run away.
During closing arguments, prosecutors played body camera video from the night of the shooting, specifically the moments after shots were fired. At that point in the video, Presley was being asked about what happened by first responders.
The State pointed to two instances in which Presley said he shot Green after he ran following their scuffle.
The prosecutors say footsteps can be heard moving away from Presley in the body camera video.
The State also cast doubt on why Presley pursued Green with a taser if he believed he may have had a firearm, and why he chose to pursue him at all. When presented with hypothetical scenarios, some law enforcement experts testified saying they likely would have chosen different methods of finding Green after he ran from the crash, including calling for backup and setting a perimeter.
One witness who said they probably wouldn’t have pursued Green into the darkness if he believed he may have been armed, is a former officer and GBI agent.
That agent had pursued Green in a foot chase as well in a previous law enforcement role during drug operation. He testified saying the pursuit came to a close when he pulled Green from a fence using his hands.
During closings, prosecutors also questioned the accuracy of an animation depicting the shooting that was shown to the jury on Wednesday.
They State said it did not appear to be the best representation of what happened that night, and questioned the way in which the figure representing Green appears to fall as he is hit by bullets.
Earlier in the day, Forensic Criminologist Dr. Ron Martinelli was called by the defense to testify, saying he felt the shooting was justified after examining the evidence.
Dr. Martinelli also gave testimony explaining how the intensity of the moments surrounding the shooting could have negatively impacted Presley’s sense perception and recall of that night.
Martinelli was also questioned by the State, but about books he’s authored, including a book titled “The Truth Behind the Black Lives Matter Movement and the War on Police,” in which he is critical of the ‘Black Lives Matter’ movement. In his time on the witness stand, he stated he simply examines the evidence of a case and stated his testimonies have been used to convict law enforcement officers in the past.
After lunch, the state called their rebuttal witness, Glyn Corbitt of the Georgia Public Safety Training Center.
While being questioned by the State, Corbitt initially testified he felt the shooting was not reasonable.
But when presented with a hypothetical scenario based on Presley’s version of events, he said he would have also used deadly force.
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