Defense calls vision, audio experts in trial of Cleveland cop charged with manslaughter

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CLEVELAND- The trial of a Cleveland police officer charged in the November 2012 deadly chase and shooting continued Monday morning with defense witnesses.

Michael Brelo, 31, faces two counts of voluntary manslaughter for the deaths of Timothy Russell and Malissa Williams.

The prosecution wrapped its case on Wednesday after calling police officers, forensic experts and families members of the victims. Prosecutors accuse Officer Brelo of acting unreasonably when he fired 49 times in Russell's Chevrolet Malibu behind Heritage Middle School on Nov. 29, 2012.

Defense attorneys maintain Brelo feared for his life and the lives of his fellow officers after a 22-minute chase through the city of Cleveland.

Brelo's attorney began their case by calling forensic audio expert Gregg Stutchman, who said the gunfire last just more than 19 seconds. He disagreed with the prosecution's audio experts on a 4.2-second break into between two distinct waves of shots. Stutchman said there was another shot in the middle of that break.

Next, Dr. Paul Michel took the stand. He said Officer Brelo would have experienced overwhelming disabilities to his vision, preventing him for seeing if the occupants of the car were armed. Michel also said the strobing overhead police lights would cause Brelo to think Russell and Williams were still moving.

On Sunday, Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Judge John O'Donnell denied the defense motion to dismiss the charges. He did, however, dismiss the gun specification. O'Donnell is hearing the case, instead of a jury.

For continuing coverage of the trial of Cleveland Police Officer Michael Brelo, click here.

Jen Steer April 27, 20159:16 am

We’ll begin momentarily.

Jen Steer April 27, 20159:18 am

Defense and prosecution makes a joint motion for the judge to revisit the scene at night with patrol cars with flashing lights. Judge John O’Donnell says he’ll consider it.

Jen Steer April 27, 20159:20 am

Defense attorney Fernando Mack calls their first witness: Gregg Stutchman, a forensic expert. He began his career as a police officer and later opened a lab.

Jen Steer April 27, 20159:23 am

Stutchman specializes in audio enhancements and analysis. He’s listing all the associations belongs to and it’s a lengthy list. I checked out his bio on his website and it says he was involved in the Michael Jackson case, but it doesn’t say to what capacity.

Jen Steer April 27, 20159:31 am

Stutchman was given “mobile audio video” from the night of the shooting to analyze. He also received police reports and other expert analysis.

Jen Steer April 27, 20159:42 am

Stutchman says the entire shooting last 19 seconds, plus a few milliseconds. There were 41 shots in the first wave.

Jen Steer April 27, 20159:43 am

There were 18 shots in the second wave of gunshots, Stutchman says.

Jen Steer April 27, 20159:48 am

Stutchman says a gunshot echo would not make it to the recording device because of its distance away from the shooting.

Jen Steer April 27, 20159:55 am

Here’s a better look at Stutchman’s analysis of the audio and video recording.

Jen Steer April 27, 201510:02 am

Prosecutors also called audio experts during week 1 of the trial. It’s unlikely there will be much cross-examination of Gregg Stutchman after defense attorney Fernando Mack completes his questioning.

Jen Steer April 27, 201510:09 am

Stutchman says there are many, many gunshots from multiple shooters. He also says there were not echos.

Jen Steer April 27, 201510:11 am

The brief pause in the shots is enough time for a skilled officer to reload their weapon, Stutchman concludes.

Jen Steer April 27, 201510:15 am

Stutchman went to the scene, behind Heritage Middle School in East Cleveland, last night. He says he learned that nothing there would indicate echoes, there’s wide open space and grass, which absorbs sound.

Jen Steer April 27, 201510:16 am

Brief break. Back on the record at 10:30 a.m.

Jen Steer April 27, 201510:34 am

Assistant prosecuting attorney Rick Bell is handling cross examination of forensic audio expert Gregg Stutchman.

Jen Steer April 27, 201510:41 am

Bell asked Stutchman if he’s reviewed the other audio experts’ reports. He has.

Jen Steer April 27, 201510:51 am

Stutchman says he didn’t analyze parts of the audio, he describes them as an “armageddon.”

Jen Steer April 27, 201510:57 am

Stutchman says there wasn’t a 4.2 second gap between the two series of shots, like the prosecution audio experts said. There was a shot in the middle, indicated there was continuous shooting.

Jen Steer April 27, 201511:21 am

The change of amplitude could be consistent with the shooter moving, Stutchman says.

Jen Steer April 27, 201511:28 am

We’re onto redirect on forensic audio expert Gregg Stutchman. Defense attorney Mack asks if Stutchman knew he was the first of the five audio experts in this case to identify the shot in the middle of the pause.

Jen Steer April 27, 201511:30 am

Stutchman makes it clear he does not think highly of one of the prosecution’s audio experts.

Jen Steer April 27, 201511:34 am

Gregg Stutchman is done on the stand. Defense calls another witness.

Jen Steer April 27, 201511:37 am

Defense calls Dr. Paul Michel. He’s an expert on human vision and a former reserve police officer.

Jen Steer April 27, 201511:40 am

Dr. Michel previously testified in homicide and assault cases, specializing in eyewitness identification. He also worked with the police-involved shooting unit in the Los Angeles Police Department.

Jen Steer April 27, 201511:44 am

Dr. Michel testified in the case of Idaho v. FBI Special Agent Lon Horiuchi for the defense. This incident is commonly referred to as Ruby Ridge, a 1992 standoff in Idaho that resulted in the deaths of Vicki and Sammy Weaver, as well as a deputy U.S. Marshal.

Jen Steer April 27, 201511:46 am

We’re breaking for lunch and will return at 1:15 with testimony from Dr. Paul Michel.

Jen Steer April 27, 20151:10 pm

The judge is running a few minutes late. We’ll start around 1:20 p.m.

Jen Steer April 27, 20151:31 pm

Human vision expert Dr. Paul Michel back on the stand. He wrapped up his credentials before lunch and is moving onto his report on the Nov. 29, 2012 shooting.

Jen Steer April 27, 20151:33 pm

Dr. Michel visited Heritage Middle School last night. There were two police cruisers with light bars there to help with the demonstration.

Jen Steer April 27, 20151:34 pm

Defense asks Dr. Michel what is an eye and what is vision.

Jen Steer April 27, 20151:44 pm

Dr. Michel is explaining why pirates wore eye patches, in helps with the light to dark adaption.

Jen Steer April 27, 20151:52 pm

Dr. Michel explains how to focus when shooting.

Jen Steer April 27, 20151:55 pm

Dr. Michel calls the flash from a gun “the red doughnut.” It’s the result of burning gases. Michel says it happens so fast that the brain doesn’t remember it, but it does effect vision.

Jen Steer April 27, 20151:59 pm

It takes 1.5 seconds for an officer to see what is happening, pull out their weapon and fire, Dr. Michel says, citing a Smith and Wesson study.

Jen Steer April 27, 20152:00 pm

Constantly firing means there is a constant red ring around the gun, Dr. Michel says.

Jen Steer April 27, 20152:09 pm

Dr. Michel explains the phi phenomenon. That’s an optical illusion where a person sees continuous motion between objects viewed in succession. It hinders a person’s ability to see specific detail and restricts peripheral vision.

Jen Steer April 27, 20152:15 pm

Dr. Michel wanted to answer the question: Is it reasonable to believe a person in Officer Brelo’s circumstance could have made a visual distinction between whether a person was armed or unarmed in the vehicle during the last parts of the pursuit? He says there were overwhelming disabilities to Officer Brelo to see into the car at the conclusion of the chase. Michel says this is because of darkness, a veiling glare, his point of focus, fractures in the windshield, diminished color perception.

Jen Steer April 27, 20152:18 pm

There is a warpage to the perception of time in traumatic situations, Dr. Michel says. It happens to plane pilots, victims of car crashes and surgeons in the operating room.

Jen Steer April 27, 20152:19 pm

Short break.

Jen Steer April 27, 20152:39 pm

Assistant prosecuting attorney Sherrie Royster is cross examining Dr. Paul Michel.

Jen Steer April 27, 20152:42 pm

Dr. Michel says he did not perform an eye exam on Brelo or request vision records for Brelo. He also did not visit the scene before he prepared his report.

Jen Steer April 27, 20152:54 pm

Dr. Michel makes reference to James Benya’s report in his own findings. Benya, a lighting expert, testified during week 1 of the trial. Benya measured light and considered weather conditions. You can read more on his testimony here:

Jen Steer April 27, 20153:03 pm

Dr. Michel reviewed Officer Brelo’s statement, but assistant prosecutor Royster is reiterating that Michel never spoke to Brelo.

Jen Steer April 27, 20153:15 pm

“If you have reason to believe they are armed and intending to hurt you, you should shoot them,” Dr. Michel says in response to prosecutors asking if a person with impaired vision should be firing a gun.

Jen Steer April 27, 20153:27 pm

Defense attorney Tom Shaughnessy wraps up his redirect examination. Assistant prosecutor Sherrie Royster is up with re-cross.

Jen Steer April 27, 20153:29 pm

Dr. Paul Michel is excused. 10-minute break.

Jen Steer April 27, 20153:43 pm

Defense calls Lance Martini, who owns Paradigm Forensic Services. He is an expert in ballistics.

Jen Steer April 27, 20153:53 pm

We’re still going through the credentials of forensic scientist Lance Martini.

Jen Steer April 27, 20154:07 pm

It’s taking about 25 minutes to get through the highlights of Lance Martini’s resume. He’s a member of several associations with various certifications. He’s testified in state and federal court as an expert witness.

Jen Steer April 27, 20154:12 pm

Martini says he couldn’t link any particular projectile to any particular gun.

Jen Steer April 27, 20154:21 pm

As each bullet hits the windshield, light will reflect off the windshield differently, Martini says. Defense attorney Patrick D’Angelo asks what effect overhead flashing lights would have. Prosecutors object and it is sustained.

Jen Steer April 27, 20154:24 pm

Martini says there are a lot of ways cartridge casings can be moved: emergency personnel, vehicles, getting stuck in shoe tread.

Jen Steer April 27, 20154:29 pm

We are done for the day. We’ll resume at 9:15 tomorrow.