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The jury of seven men and five women — including three black jurors —?deliberated for a total of 3? hours before returning a verdict at the Allegheny County Courthouse in Downtown Pittsburgh.?
Antwon's mother, Michelle Kenney, did not visibly react to the verdict. She told her daughter not to cry.
Protestors have gathered at Forbes and Grant, chanting. pic.twitter.com/UeiuQZg7gb— Lacretia Wimbley (@WimbleyJourno) March 23, 2019
“I don't have any question in my mind it was the proper verdict,” said Patrick Thomassey, attorney for Mr. Rosfeld. “I give this jury a lot of credit. This was a very hard case. I will point out to you this was not an all-white jury. There were African-Americans on this jury. They listened to the facts. They listened to the law.”
In a statement released about an hour after the verdict, District Attorney Stephen A. Zappala Jr. said he disagrees with the jury’s decision but he respects the system “and they have spoken to this matter.” He said it is his job to file charges when he believes a crime has occurred “regardless of the role an individual holds in the community.”
“I have always believed that the criminal justice system belongs to the people and the best example of that is when 12 men and women sit in a room and deliberate how best to pass judgment onto one of their peers,” he said. “Indeed that is the foundation on which the entire criminal justice system is built.”
The trial began Tuesday morning and the jurors weighed evidence, testimony and arguments for four days. Jurors then had to decide whether Mr. Rosfeld was justified when he killed Antwon, who 13 minutes earlier had been in a car during a drive-by shooting in North Braddock.
The jurors returned to the courtroom at 9:03 p.m. The two alternates, who did not participate in deliberations sat at the front of the courtroom.
Juror No. 9 was the foreman, and read the verdict in the packed courtroom. He hesitated before saying not guilty at each count he read.
"First degree murder -- not guilty."
"Third -degree murder -- not guilty."
"Voluntary manslaughter -- not guilty."
And finally, a longer pause, "Involuntary manslaughter -- not guilty."
Mr. Rosfeld grabbed the hand of the investigator next to him, while his wife, sitting in the front row of the courtroom began to weep.
The jurors left the courtroom at 9:10 p.m., and a few moments later, Mr. Rosfeld and his wife were rushed from the courtroom by deputies shouting, "go, go, go, go."
Scene outside the Allegheny County Common Pleas courthouse pic.twitter.com/A6wyBNmBA9— Liz Navratil (@LizNavratil) March 23, 2019
People outside the courthouse are singing "What side are you on my people?"— Liz Navratil (@LizNavratil) March 23, 2019
The verdict ends a contentious case that has divided the region for nine months. It did not end the controversy.
Minutes after the verdict became known, a crowd gathered on the steps of the courthouse around 9:30 p.m.?
They began singing "What side are you on my people?"
The response: "The freedom side."
When they left the courthouse, Antwon’s mother and sister showed no emotion as they left on Ross Street. They were escorted by a deputy sheriff and entered a private car to leave the area.
As television cameras recorded the family leaving, an unidentified woman bystander said, “It’s crazy. You’re taking pictures but you can shoot somebody on camera and not be convicted.”
The crowd was angry but peaceful as it moved down Grant Street repeating a series of chants such as “No Justice, no peace,” “Hands up, don’t shoot,” “Three shots in the back.”
Chants also included: "Three shots in the back. How you justify that?"
There were no police officers near the crowd.
Supporters of Antwon’s family were pessimistic even as they entered the courthouse.
“The verdict was too fast,” said Antwon’s aunt, Carolyn Morrison of Rankin, as she entered the courthouse prior to the verdict. “The trial was too fast. The verdict was too fast. It was all too fast.”
As Mr. Thomassey addressed the media after the verdict, the sound of protesters chanting and a police dog barking could be heard in the distance.
"I hope everyone takes a deep breath and gets on with their lives," Mr. Thomassey said.
"I'm going to say this right now, this case had nothing to do with race, absolutely nothing to do with race," said Mr. Thomassey, immediately after the verdict. "Some people in the city made it that way, and it's sad. Mike Rosfeld was doing his job, he did his job, and [it had] nothing to do with the color of anybody he was arresting. I'm glad the case is over. I hope everybody just gets on with their lives, including Mr. Rosfeld, including me."
An understanding that inequality exists & we have a moral obligation to address it. I offer the full support of the city of Pittsburgh, to help us find light in darkness.— bill peduto (@billpeduto) March 23, 2019
(Part 2 of 2)
Metal barricades lined the sidewalks around the courthouse to keep people out of the street, but periodic openings allowed people to cross the street.
The city had prepared for the verdict by deploying Public Works snow plows and police officers around the courthouse on Grant Street, Downtown.
Grant Street was limited to one lane of outbound traffic. Two plows were deployed at Fifth Avenue and Ross Street at the rear of the courthouse and one each at Forbes Avenue and Ross and Fifth. Six motorcycle officers were sitting at Ross and Fifth with their lights on.
The only people outside the courthouse were about a half dozen people at the Ross Street entrance, including several media members.
The jury got the case at 4:38 p.m., with the options of a not guilty verdict, or first-degree and third-degree murder, as well as the lesser charges of voluntary and involuntary manslaughter as part of their deliberations. The verdict came less than five hours later.
Under Pennsylvania law, an officer is justified in using force when he believes it is necessary to prevent death or serious injury to himself or others, or if he believes it necessary to prevent a suspect’s escape from arrest. That suspect, the law continues, must have committed or attempted to commit a forcible felony and pose a danger to human life.
The killing of Antwon spurred multiple protests over the summer. The week after it occurred, District Attorney Stephen A. Zappala Jr.’s office filed a single homicide count against Mr. Rosfeld, of Verona, who turns 31 on Sunday. A verdict could bring new disturbances, and local law enforcement and businesses have been planning for that possibility for weeks.
Both the jury selection — held in Dauphin County because of the case’s publicity — and trial moved along briskly. Over two-and-a-half days, county Chief Trial Deputy District Attorney Dan Fitzsimmons and Assistant District Attorney Jonathan Fodi put on 21 witnesses.
On Thursday afternoon and into Friday morning, defense attorney Patrick Thomassey presented just two: Mr. Rosfeld, and a use-of-force expert. Common Pleas Judge Alexander P. Bicket presided.
Early Friday, the jury composition shifted when one white woman was dismissed from service and a white man moved from the alternate pool to the panel that went into deliberations. The final 12-member jury began its deliberations early Friday evening.
Here’s a recap of the evidence the jury heard.
Testimony began Tuesday with Dr. Abdulrezak Al-Shakir, an Allegheny County forensic pathologist who described the three bullet wounds, including the fatal one that went through Antwon’s back and struck the right ventricle of his heart.
North Braddock police Sgt. Brian Hodges then told the jury about the response to a drive-by shooting just 13 minutes before Antwon’s death, at Jones and Baldridge avenues in the borough he patrols. He said he saw one of the victims, Tom Cole Jr., and Mr. Rosfeld at that scene. Not long after, he heard on the radio Mr. Rosfeld stop the Chevy Cruze suspected in the drive-by, and then a "shots fired" call. He reported to that scene, Grandview Avenue in East Pittsburgh.
Allegheny County police homicide Detective Thomas Foley walked jurors through the crime scene at Baldridge and Jones in North Braddock, describing nine .40-caliber casings recovered from the gun of Zaijuan Hester, 18, of Swissvale, who on March 15 pleaded guilty to three counts of aggravated assault and four firearms charges.
His homicide squad colleague, Detective Anthony Perry, then walked the jury through photos of the East Pittsburgh shooting scene, taken July 23.
Next, spanning Tuesday and Wednesday, came a parade of civilian witnesses to the shooting.
Debra Jones, of Grandview Avenue in East Pittsburgh, said she saw Mr. Rosfeld shoot Antwon as he and Hester ran away. She said that several minutes after the shooting she saw Antwon lying face-down in the grass with his hands handcuffed behind his back.
Lashaun Livingston, also of Grandview, used her cell phone to video record the shooting, and the jury saw that footage. She said she was on her porch — some 180 feet from the scene of the shooting — when she heard Mr. Rosfeld pull over the Chevy Cruze, and began recording because of the tone of his voice. She testified that she never saw the running teens making any motions with their hands, and saw no weapons.
On Wednesday, Peyton Deri, a University of Pittsburgh football player, testified about his video recording of the incident, taken from around 600 feet away.
Grandview resident John Leach said he saw the shooting and heard Mr. Rosfeld say, immediately after, "I don't know why I shot him, I don't know why I fired.”
East Pittsburgh Mayor Louis Payne gave his account of the shooting, which he saw the same evening he swore in Mr. Rosfeld as a borough officer. He said his new recruit appeared distraught after the incident. Patrick Shattuck, a community developer who was with the mayor, and has since moved to Vermont, testified that he heard Mr. Rosfeld say, "Why did he do that? Why did he do that? Why did he take that out of his pocket?"
After that, the prosecution called a string of law enforcement officers.
Brian Neff, who was an East Pittsburgh police officer at the time of the shooting, testified that he pulled up to the East Pittsburgh shooting scene as soon as Antwon Rose II and Zaijuan Hester fled from the felony stop. He immediately heard the shots, and then, following Mr. Rosfeld's directions, gave chase.
East McKeesport police Officer Scott Lowden, who is also a certified emergency medical technician, told the jury that he arrived at the East Pittsburgh scene, finding it chaotic with officers "running around." He said Antwon was unattended, and that he uncuffed the 17-year-old, rolled him over to his back, and then turned his body around so his head was uphill toward Grandview Avenue. He said he tried CPR on Antwon, who was having trouble breathing.
Then Charles Rozzo, an Allegheny County Housing Authority police officer, said that he arrived on the scene to see Mr. Rosfeld clearly upset, took the officer to a police vehicle and secured his guns. He said Mr. Rosfeld was overheated, and removed his vest and duty belt. Officer Rozzo took Mr. Rosfeld back to the East Pittsburgh police station.
Anthony Perry, an Allegheny County homicide detective, showed crime scene photos including those capturing two guns — a 9 mm and a .40-caliber, both with extended magazines — found under the front seats of the Cruze.
Turtle Creek and Wilmerding officers talked about the effort to find Hester. And Daniel Wolfe, a member of the mobile crime unit that responded to the East Pittsburgh scene, testified to the small amount of gunshot residue found on the back of Antwon’s right hand.
On Thursday, experts from the Allegheny County Office of the Medical Examiner testified that bullet found in Antwon's body came from Mr. Rosfeld's gun, and that the bullets Hester fired in the drive-by did not match those in the magazine found in Antwon's pocket. They said that fingerprints on the side of the Cruze from which the drive-by shooting occurred matched Hester.
The prosecution’s last witness, Allegheny County police Officer James Holman, used specialized software to break down Ms. Livingston’s cell phone video showing the jury that Mr. Rosfeld fired all three shots in just under one second.
After the prosecution closed, Mr. Thomassey filed a motion for acquittal, contending that the prosecution had failed to show evidence of malice. “We have a police officer who is doing his duty,” he said. “It's not the hardness of heart and the wickedness that's required for first-degree or third-degree murder. It's just not. He is doing his duty.”
Judge Bicket, though, denied the motion.
Mr. Thomassey them presented Mr. Rosfeld -—an unusual move in a murder trial. For just under an hour and a half, the former officer told the jury that he thought Antwon or Hester had pointed a weapon at him. "I did it to protect myself and the community,” he said.
Why three shots? Mr. Rosfeld said he has been "trained to fire until the threat is eliminated."
But when he saw “the threat” lying on the ground, wounded, trying to breathe, he said, “I was upset, shocked."
The defense's use-of-force expert, former state trooper Clifford Jobe, said he couldn't find fault in Mr. Rosfeld's handling of the incident.
In their closings Friday afternoon, the attorneys chose very different pieces of evidence on which to focus.
Mr. Thomassey zoomed in on the drive-by shooting that preceded the encounter between Mr. Rosfeld and Antwon, and their reaction to being pulled over.
"Mr. Rosfeld didn't wake up that day and decide to shoot someone" but Antwon Rose II and Zaijuan Hester did, he told the jury.
"If Rose and Hester did nothing wrong, why did they run?" he asked jurors. "You and I wouldn't do that." Then he answered his own question. "They knew what they did, and they wanted to get away."
He sought to cast doubt on the video evidence in the case, emphasizing that the videos were recorded by witnesses who were some distance from the scene. Mr. Rosfeld, by contrast, was about eight yards away from Antwon when he fired, the defense attorney said.
At one point, he stood a few feet from the jury and lifted a gun that had been used as evidence in the case, pointing it at the wall beside the jury.
"About that far," he said over the weapon. "About eight yards. Who had a better view of what was happening?"
Prosecutor Jonathan Fodi countered in closing that Mr. Rosfeld could not have reasonably felt threatened by Antwon.
"Every single time the defendant pulled the trigger and pointed it at Antwon Rose's body, he had the intent to kill. Every one of them is backward to frontward. Every one of them at a time when Antwon Rose posed no risk to Michael Rosfeld," the prosecutor said.
"When an officer fails to wait for backup; fails to give commands; when they deceive us; when they point a deadly weapon at a 17-year-old running away, that rises to the level of murder," he said.
Staff writers Liz Navratil, Julian Routh, Torsten Ove, Lacretia Wimbley, Ashley Murray and Michael A. Fuoco contributed.?