Defense rests in state trooper’s manslaughter trial after calling 2 expert witnesses

The defense rested its case Tuesday in the manslaughter trial of Connecticut State Police Trooper Brian North after calling two expert witnesses who previously determined North was justified when he opened fire on a teen following a high-speed chase.

Marissa Alter

Mar 13, 2024, 12:12 AM

Updated 37 days ago

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The defense rested its case Tuesday in the manslaughter trial of Connecticut State Police Trooper Brian North after calling two expert witnesses who previously determined North was justified when he opened fire on a teen following a high-speed chase.
Paul Taylor and James Borden were hired by the previous prosecutor in the case to review the death of 19-year-old Mubarak Soulemane. But in 2021, the Office of the Inspector General was established to investigate all use of force incidents statewide, and the case was turned over to Inspector General Robert Devlin. Devlin ended up charging North, going against the opinions of both Taylor and Borden.
The two men couldn’t talk about their conclusion specifically in court. The judge kept their testimony to questions about their methods and what they analyzed in their reviews, ruling that the question of whether North’s actions were justified should be left to the jury.
On Jan. 15, 2020, North fired seven shots into the window of a stopped, stolen car as Soulemane sat in the driver’s seat with a knife. It happened after a carjacking in Norwalk and pursuit up I-95, which ended with Soulemane crashing in West Haven and police cruisers boxing him in.
On Tuesday, Taylor took the stand first. He’s a former police officer and current university professor who started the consulting company Association of Force Investigators to review use-of-force decisions. Taylor said he looked at body camera and dash camera footage, along with dispatch audio and North’s written statement. Taylor testified he determined North did not shoot in response to another officer deploying a taser or because he was startled but because North perceived a deadly threat.
“The officer's statement was that he believed officers were attempting to open the vehicle on the other side. He was concerned that Mr. Soulemane had a knife and could injure or kill those officers, and he made the decision to fire,” Taylor told the jury. “Trooper North’s statement aligns with what I understand about perception response time from the relevant research and is supported both by the empirical evidence.”
Taylor also testified that body camera footage is a different perspective than what the officer is viewing in the moment and often times has light enhancing capabilities.
On cross examination, Devlin pointed out North's statement came after he viewed the body camera footage.
“You said publicly that it contaminates critical evidence by doing it that way, correct?" Devlin asked Taylor.
“Absolutely, memory is tainted by reviewing body-worn footage,” Taylor responded but clarified that it is common practice and even policy for officers to review their body camera footage.
Borden, a former officer who founded Critical Incident Review, a law enforcement training and consulting company, took the stand next. He said he was asked to look at North’s decision-making process and what led to the shooting. Borden told the jury North’s use of force was “appropriate” but before he could explain more, Devlin objected, and the judge struck Borden’s response from the record.
Borden testified that the officers’ first focus was stopping the threat posed by Soulemane. He pointed to what police knew at the time of the shooting — that an armed carjacking suspect had engaged in a long chase before crashing into another vehicle.
“Decisions made in a scenario like this are based on the behavior of the suspect,” Borden said. “I'm looking at what the officer stated they saw in that moment, what they believed was occurring. I review and analyze the video to see if that evidence is present. Is there actually evidence of an individual moving. And the simplicity of it is there is evidence of the subject with a knife in his hand.”
Devlin believes there was no imminent threat to North or other officers on the scene when he opened fire. He said he has one rebuttal witness set for Wednesday morning. Closing arguments are expected to follow, which means the jury of six could get the case in the afternoon.
North rejected a plea deal in the case calling for a sentence of up to 10 years in prison.


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