Michael Brelo trial returns from recess, defense takes center stage

Michael Brelo trial returns from recess, defense takes center stage

The Michael Brelo trial resumed Monday with the defense calling its first witness to the stand.

19 Action News first reported Sunday that Judge John O'Donnell denied Rule 29, a motion by the defense to throw out manslaughter charges against Officer Brelo. The Rule 29 motion as a whole was denied, but was granted in part as to the firearm specs.

First Monday, the court listened to a looped audio recording.

The recording was followed by testimony from Gregg Stutchman, a former police officer and audio expert who analyzed the dash cam audio from a Bratenahl cruiser near the scene where Timothy Russell and Malissa Williams were shot and killed by Cleveland Police. He countered expert testimony from prosecution witnesses that said three of the final 18 shots were echoes because the most Brelo could have fired were 15, given the amount of ammunition remaining in his gun.

"An echo wouldn't even make it to that recording device. Echoes do not have the amplitude or the volume of gunshots," explained Stutchman.

Stutchman believes differently. He testified that they are gunshots from a different weapon or weapons. 

"Do you have an opinion about the number of shooters that there could be during that second series, up to how many?" asked a defense attorney. 

"Up to four," Gregg Stutchman answered.

"OK. And as little as?" asked the defense.

"As little as two or as many as four," answered Stutchman.

The prosecution tried to punch holes in the theory, saying since Brelo was moving from car to car, his location changed, and the sounds would be different. This could account for the three sounds heard.

In court, vision expert Dr. Paul Michel showed the view Officer Brelo would have had when firing. He explained how his view, along with flashing strobes from police cars, sirens and gunfire, all would have impacted Brelo's perception.

"My belief is that there were overwhelming disabilities to Officer Brelo's abilities as a human being to see inside the car," said Michel.

The obvious intent of Monday's witnesses were to counter the prosecution's witnesses. Both the vision and audio experts did that calling into question, even criticizing their conclusions and qualifications.

The defense is expected to end its case by the end of the week.

Williams and Russell, both unarmed, were gunned down in the Heritage Middle School parking lot in East Cleveland at the end of the chase. A group of 13 officers fired 137 shots.


Officer Brelo wanted a judge to decide his fate instead of a jury.

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