CLEVELAND– The Cuyahoga County Prosecutor’s office has filed an appeal in the Michael Brelo case that will not affect the not guilty verdict – but may have an impact on future cases.
Last Saturday, Judge John O’Donnell found the Cleveland police officer not guilty of manslaughter in the deaths of two unarmed people at the end of a controversial police chase back in 2012.
In essence, the judge ruled that because Brelo wasn’t the only officer to fire fatal shots, he couldn’t be held responsible as the person who killed Timothy Russell and Malissa Williams.
Prosecutors contend that the law did not require them to prove that only Brelo’s shots were the fatal ones.
They also take issue with how the judge applied the law regarding whether Brelo was justified in his use of deadly force.
And finally, prosecutors say the judge considered the wrong so-called ‘lesser-included’ offense.
Judge O’Donnell ruled prosecutors had proven felonious assault, but said Brelo was legally excused from the assault charges because it was reasonable for him to perceive that a threat still existed.
But prosecutors contend that felonious assault is not a lesser-included offense underneath voluntary manslaughter.
They say the proper charges to have considered were attempted voluntary manslaughter and aggravated assault.
That could be significant because all elements of a crime have to be proven for someone to be guilty of that crime – but the elements can change from crime to crime.
So prosecutors may believe they proved one of the lesser-included crimes that the court did not rule on.
Again, any appeals court ruling would only apply to future case – and would not effect the Brelo not guilty verdict.
Someone who has been tried and found not guilty of a crime cannot be re-tried for that crime by that governmental entity again because of the double jeopardy protection contained within the U.S. Constitution.