The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

National and world

November 18, 2013

12 jurors seated for Oklahoma police captain trial

OKLAHOMA CITY — A 12-member jury was seated Monday for the manslaughter trial of a Del City police captain charged in the shooting death of an unarmed teenager, a trial in which jurors will be asked to weigh the officer’s use of deadly force with the actions of the young victim.

Capt. Randy Harrison, 48, is charged with first-degree manslaughter in the March 14, 2012, death of Dane Scott Jr., 18. Harrison has pleaded not guilty and faces a minimum of four years and a maximum of life in prison if convicted.

A jury of nine women and three men was chosen in Oklahoma County District Court after attorneys posed questions to a panel of prospective jurors that revealed evidence they are expected to be presented in the case. Testimony is scheduled to begin Tuesday after prosecution and defense attorneys present their opening statements to the jury.

A police affidavit says Harrison, a 23-year-veteran of the Del City Police Department, was trying to arrest Scott after a car chase and took a handgun from the teen. As Scott ran away, Harrison fired four times with the fourth shot striking Scott in the back.

The affidavit says Scott was unarmed and posed no threat of death or great bodily harm at the time of the shooting.

Harrison, who is white, sat stoically at the defense table and showed no emotion as attorneys and District Judge Donald Deason questioned prospective jurors. Family members of the victim, who was black, were seated in the courtroom during the daylong jury selection process.

Assistant District Attorney Gayland Gieger questioned prospective jurors at length on their thoughts about the role of police officers and their responsibility to the public.

Gieger inquired whether it was appropriate for an officer to continue to pursue a suspect after a confrontation had been broken off. Some jurors said the safety of other members of the public needs to be considered and that an officer can always use his radio to notify others about a fleeing suspect.

Defense attorney Doug Friesen asked jurors whether it was appropriate for police officers to use deadly force.

“The officer is in charge of the process, but the suspect is in charge of the outcome,” Friesen said at one point.

He also questioned them about their knowledge of the high legal standard required to find someone guilty of a crime and said prosecutors must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Harrison is guilty of manslaughter before jurors can find him guilty.

Both attorneys questioned jurors on their views about marijuana and whether it should be legalized. Evidence in the case is expected to focus on Scott’s background with drugs, including his arrest by Harrison while allegedly selling drugs near Del City High School in 2011.

Court papers indicate Harrison also saw Scott allegedly selling marijuana from his home. Scott allegedly was selling drugs to a passenger in his car prior to the pursuit that led to the shooting, according to court records.

The chase began when police tried to stop a vehicle for a traffic violation. The car, which had three occupants including Scott, fled and then collided with a tractor-trailer in Oklahoma City.

Scott had previous convictions in juvenile court on misdemeanor drug charges and a pending felony case of drug possession with intent to distribute, police officials said.  

The shooting occurred a few weeks after the death of Trayvon Martin, the black teen who was unarmed when he was shot in Florida by a neighborhood watch volunteer. Harrison was charged within weeks of the arrests of two white men accused of fatally shooting three black people in Tulsa during a shooting spree that investigators described as racially motivated.

 

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