Jurors to resume deliberations in Ford shooting trial

JUSTICE FOR LEON — Leon Ford addresses the crowd in this May 3 photo at the Justice for Leon Rally in Homewood. (Photo by J.L. Martello)

Jurors will try for a third day Thursday to reach a verdict in the criminal trial of Leon Ford, who was paralyzed when he was shot by a White Pittsburgh police officer during a traffic stop.
The jurors told Allegheny County Judge Donald Machen on Wednesday that they were deadlocked on some counts, but the judge instructed them to continue their discussions.
After Pittsburgh police Officer David Derbish’s testimony ran into a second day, the prosecution called its final two witnesses, an expert on crash reconstructions, and one on ballistics. Their testimony centered on where Derbish was in the vehicle when he shot Ford multiple times after Ford’s car took off while Derbish and another officer attempted to remove him from the vehicle following a erroneous traffic stop in November 2012.
Derbish stated that as officer Andrew Miller tried to pull Ford out of the driver’s side window, he tried to pry Ford’s right hand from the gearshift, and both of their hands might have been on the gearshift when the car began to move forward. He said he yelled for him to stop several times and then fired.
Ford’s attorney Fred Rabner asked how he could have been moving his hand toward “a budge near his hip pocket” if it was still on the gearshift. Derbish had previously stated that he’d seen a “bulge” and thought it might be a gun. No gun was found.
The basis for the defense case is that officers Derbish, Miller and Michael Koslo committed major breaches of police protocol that led to the shooting. Among them was misidentifying Leon as Lamont Ford, a dangerous wanted offender Koslo had dealt with before.
Judge Donald Machen, however, became increasingly tired of Rabner repeatedly going over answers that had been given, telling him on several occasions to “Move on.”
Assistant District Attorney Robert Schupansky rested his case by again contending Ford made the choice to try to flee and his injuries are the result of that choice.
Rabner and fellow defense attorney Thomas Malone began their case Nov. 8 by putting Ford on the stand. He testified he was terrified during the stop and that officer Koslo swore at him when he said he wasn’t Lamont Ford. He said with both officers Miller and Koslo trying to pull him from the car, it was rocking back and forth. He said he didn’t know how it shifted into forward. He also said he didn’t remember being shot—but he did remember being dragged from the car.
“I remember my ears ringing, smelling smoke,” he said, and when he was lying on the ground in his own blood, he heard one of them say. “I hope you f…ing die.”
Prosecutor Schupansky brought up inconsistencies between Ford’s testimony and his federal civil rights complaint where the latter said he was unconscious after being pulled from the car.
Ford said the federal complaint differs because it was drawn up by his attorneys. The trial continues.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
(Send comments to cmorrow@newpittsburghcourier.com.)


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