No verdict after first full day of jury deliberations in state trooper's manslaughter trial

The fate of Connecticut State Police Trooper Brian North remains in the jury's hands after the first full day of deliberations in his trial wrapped up without a verdict.

Marissa Alter

Mar 14, 2024, 11:29 PM

Updated 36 days ago

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The fate of Connecticut State Police Trooper Brian North remains in the jury's hands after the first full day of deliberations in his trial wrapped up without a verdict.
North is charged with first-degree manslaughter with a firearm in the shooting death of 19-year-old Mubarak Soulemane over four years ago.
The jury, which is made up of four men and two women, got the case late Wednesday afternoon and deliberated for about an hour before they picked back up Thursday morning and worked the whole day. Their one note came after a technical issue with their laptop. The laptop was brought into the courtroom, rebooted and the problem resolved in a matter of minutes.
North previously turned down a plea deal with a sentence of up to 10 years in prison. If he's found guilty of first-degree manslaughter with a firearm, which is a Class B felony, he faces up to 40 years behind bars. However, per the judge's instructions, the jury can find North not guilty of that charge and instead convict him of one of two lesser charges: second-degree manslaughter with a firearm, a Class C felony with a sentence of up to 10 years in prison, or criminally negligent homicide, a misdemeanor with a maximum sentence of one year behind bars.
There is no dispute that North fired seven shots into the window of a stopped stolen car where Soulemane sat in the driver's seat. What the jury has to decide is whether or not it was reasonable for North to open fire on Soulemane, who was holding a knife and had a history of mental illness.
Whatever the verdict, the outcome will be significant since this is the first trial handled by the Office of the Inspector General, which was created in 2021 to investigate all police shootings statewide. North is also the first law enforcement officer in the in over a decade to be charged with killing someone with his service weapon while on duty.
The case dates back to Jan. 15, 2020, when Soulemane was behaving erratically at an AT&T store in Norwalk and showed a knife before leaving in a Lyft. Soulemane then stole that car and led police on a high speed chase up I-95 that ended when he got off the highway in West Haven and crashed into an SUV. That's when North and other law enforcement boxed in the car and approached it.
North testified he fired his gun through the driver's window when he saw Soulemane pull a knife and make a motion toward the officers on the other side of the car. North said he believed they were entering the car and were in danger.
In closing arguments, defense attorney Frank Riccio painted the picture of an officer following his extensive training and doing his job. Riccio argued North made a split-second decision and fired at Mubarak because this was a suspect who hadn't complied with police, was armed with a knife and could have seriously hurt or even killed the officers on scene.
But Inspector General Robert Devlin countered there was no imminent threat. He said officers had the car surrounded and Soulemane couldn't go anywhere. Devlin told the jury North was reckless and showed an indifference to human life, saying he opened fire when he saw a knife, not when there was any danger. Devlin pointed to the body camera footage as key, saying no one was in the process of entering the car when North pulled the trigger.
During the trial, jurors were shown video of the shooting from dash cameras and body cameras including North’s. They also heard from Soulemane's family who testified he was diagnosed with schizophrenia and bipolar disorder and struggled to take his medications.
Thursday marked the ninth day of the trial, which began on March 4. Deliberations resume at 9 a.m. Friday.


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