Expert testimony in trial of Cleveland police officer charged with manslaughter

This is an archived article and the information in the article may be outdated. Please look at the time stamp on the story to see when it was last updated.

Cleveland Police Officer Michael Brelo sits in court on April 7, 2015. (Photo: Jen Steer/Fox 8)

CLEVELAND- The trial of Cleveland Police Officer Michael Brelo resumed Thursday morning.

Brelo, 31, is charged with two counts of voluntary manslaughter in the shooting deaths of Timothy Russell and Malissa Williams following a chase through Cleveland in November 2012.

Prosecutors said Brelo fired 49 of 137 shots into Russell’s 1979 Chevrolet Malibu, killing both people inside. Defense attorneys argue that Brelo and his fellow officers believed they were under fire and did what they had to in order to survive.

On Wednesday, Officer Michael Demchak took the Fifth Amendment. Demchak, an officer for 33 years, was working in the third district the night of the shooting. Judge John O’Donnell ruled that Demchak did not have testify, despite arguments from Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Tim McGinty.

O’Donnell accused prosecutors of trying to shame Demchak into testifying.

Prosecutors also presented maps showing Cleveland police car locations from Nov. 29, 2012. Longitude, latitude, speed, time and distance are recorded from the cruisers allowing analysts to create a video “replay” of that night.

On Thursday, James Benya of Benya Burnett Consultancy shared his expertise on the lighting behind Heritage Middle School in East Cleveland the night of the shooting. In 2014, Benya went to the scene to measure light coming from the parking lot lights and police lights, taking into consideration weather conditions.

More on Wednesday’s testimony here.

Continuing coverage here.

Jen Steer April 9, 20159:10 am

We are now into a section of expert testimony. James Benya of Benya Burnett Consultancy is on the stand now. He is a lighting expert.

Jen Steer April 9, 20159:12 am

Benya is a professional engineer with about 40 years of lighting experience. He was contacted by the prosecution to analyze the lighting at the scene behind Heritage Middle School in East Cleveland the night of Nov. 12, 2012 when the shooting occurred.

Jen Steer April 9, 20159:19 am

He went to Heritage Middle School in 2014 to take pictures and measurements for his report to the prosecutor’s office. Benya also checked the weather conditions of Cleveland on the night of the shooting.

Jen Steer April 9, 20159:21 am

At the time of the event, the lunar phase would not have mattered because of cloud cover, Benya says. We are now being shown lunar reports . When they returned in 2014, it was also cloudy.

Jen Steer April 9, 20159:24 am

Benya says the lighting conditions at Heritage Middle School was similar to the lighting he would aim for when designing shopping center parking lots.

Jen Steer April 9, 20159:27 am

Lighting expert Benya notes that Timothy Russell’s Malibu was in between two light poles.

Jen Steer April 9, 20159:36 am

During his recreation of the shooting conditions, Benya used a white car instead of a light blue Malibu. He says there would be no difference for the purpose of his testing.

Jen Steer April 9, 20159:39 am

Static illumination: overhead lights, lights that do not change. Dynamic illumination: police lights, lights that move.

Jen Steer April 9, 20159:51 am

Benya says the lighting in the parking lot of better than the industry standard for security lighting, which is higher than parking lot lighting recommendations. He says he took measurements inside the cars and with doors open and closed.

Jen Steer April 9, 20159:59 am

Benya took lighting measurements and documented them with photographs. The prosecution said in opening statement that they would prove the lighting was enough for officers to see inside Russell’s car.

Jen Steer April 9, 201510:01 am

Benya tried to capture the impact of the flashing lights in his lighting tests.

Jen Steer April 9, 201510:14 am

Benya also recorded video of his light test. This is a still image from the short video.