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Bates' attorney calls first expert witness

Posted at 8:02 PM, Apr 25, 2016

On Monday, the second week of the Robert Bates trial began inside the Tulsa County Courthouse. The state called its final two witnesses in the early afternoon and then Bates' defense attorney Clark Brewster called his first witness to testify. 

Bates, 74, has pleaded not guilty to a charge of second-degree manslaughter in the death of Eric Harris in April of last year.

The state's final witness called to the stand was Tulsa County Sheriff's Detective Michael Heisten. He worked as the investigator assigned to the shooting of Harris last April. 

Bates was volunteering in an undercover operation to purchase a firearm from 44-year-old Harris. Body camera video from one of the deputies shows Harris running, then two deputies taking him down to the ground.

Heisten testified Monday, during his investigation he met with Bates several days after the shooting. The former reserve deputy provided a detailed statement of his involvement in a TCSO operation and the shooting of Eric Harris.

In court, Brewster read the complete statement . In it Bates admits to mistaking his Taser for his gun. He wrote that he saw a brief opening to use his Taser on Harris, as the suspect fought with deputies. Bates believed Harris could be concealing a weapon.

Bates admitted in his statement he then felt a recoil he didn't expect - after he grabbed his gun instead of his Taser. He then yelled, "I shot him, I'm sorry."

Brewster then showed the jury an identical Taser to the one Bates used, as well as the revolver he shot last April. Brewster said the two weigh about the same, have similar grips and lasers. Heisten agreed. 

Each juror took turns holding the Taser and gun to examine the grips and weight. When asked about how the Taser is activated, Heisten testified the Taser has a switch that must be turned to an on position.

When the Taser is turned on, it either displays a laser, a light, or a laser and a light. Heisten said based on video of an operation before April 2, 2015, he saw that Bates' Taser displayed both a light and laser when activated. 

Heisten said Bates' gun doesn't require any sort of switch to be ready to shoot. Brewster said the gun only displays a laser when the grip is held. 

In his statement, Bates also mentioned being on similar operations in the past. But Heisten said Bates has been on other TCSO operations, but he has no knowledge of the defendant being involved with an operation where a felon fled. 

As Heisten left the witness stand, the state rested its case.

After being critical of the state last week, Eric Harris' brother Andre Harris said the prosecution ended up presenting a solid case to the court.

"I'm pleased with what he revealed," Harris said. "I wish they would have gone into his qualifications a little bit more. I wish they would have stated that the .357 that he had he was not qualified with."
 
After the state rested its case, Brewster requested a demurrer and wanted Judge Bill Musseman to halt the trial. He argued that the state in its case failed to show that Bates committed culpable negligence, which means he would have done something a reasonable, careful person wouldn't do. 

None of the state's witnesses in Brewster's opinion showed the jury what negligence would have been in this case. Instead witnesses simply called the shooting an accident, which Brewster stated would be an excusable homicide. 

That state pushed back though. Assistant District Attorney Kevin Grey told the judge, the state doesn't have to call a witness to show what negligence is. He said it is up to the jury to determine that from the evidence presented. 

Musseman ruled in favor of the state, allowing the trial to move forward with the defense calling its first witness after a recess. 

After court proceedings ended for the day though, Brewster stood by the argument he made in court and claims the trial should have been stopped after the state rested.

"Because they have offered no proof that there is a departure from the standard of care or that there is a breach of duty in this case," Brewster told 2 Works For You. "Everyone has continually testified it was an accident."

After a lunch break, the jury returned and Brewster called an expert in forensic psychiatry to testify as the defense's first witness.
 
Dr. Charles Morgan told the jury about ways in which the human brain can make errors during highly stressful situations, specifically law enforcement or military operations. 
 
Morgan testified he has seen situations where a highly skilled individual under stress has grabbed the wrong tool, piece of equipment or weapon. When questioned by Grey though, Morgan said he hadn't seen the training records for Bates. 
 
Brewster said that training records have nothing to do with an accidental act, such as the shooting of Harris. He then when on to tell reporters after court how his client is very well trained. 
 
"Training records are extensive. Mr Bates is probably one of the highest trained reserves that the reserve force had ever seen," Brewster said.
 
Testimony in the case is scheduled to resume on Tuesday at 9:30 a.m., with Bates' defense lawyers calling their next witness. 
 

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