Judge weighs whether to release fatal police shooting video

AP News
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Posted: May 13, 2015 1:19 PM

HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — A video that shows a Pennsylvania police officer fatally shooting an unarmed man earlier this year remained out of public view Wednesday as a county judge considered whether to let prosecutors release it before trial.

Dauphin County Judge Deborah Curcillo after a brief hearing did not say when she would rule, but her statements from the bench were encouraging for Brian Perry, defense attorney for Hummelstown Police Officer Lisa Mearkle.

"Just from her comments, she seemed to suggest she was not going to release it, which is our position," Perry said afterward.

The video taken by Mearkle's stun gun shows her shooting 59-year-old David Kassick in the back as he lay facedown following a vehicle chase in February. She is charged with criminal homicide, but Perry has said she acted in self-defense.

Prosecutor Johnny Baer said the Dauphin County district attorney's office took steps to release it after getting several requests from news organizations. His office determined there was nothing to prevent them from making it public, he said.

There is a significant public interest in the video, attorney Joshua Bonn told the judge. Bonn, who represents PA Media Group, publisher of Pennlive.com in Harrisburg, said there has been a national discussion about police conduct after police shootings in Ferguson, Missouri and in Baltimore.

Curcillo said prosecutors could show the video at trial, noting "there is no denial of public access."

Police said Mearkle, 36, shocked Kassick four times with the camera-equipped stun gun, and then shot him twice in the back, four seconds apart. The incident began when she attempted to stop him for expired inspection and emissions stickers and he sped away, police have said.

Mearkle was suspended without pay after her arrest and remains on electronic monitoring while out on bail. Her formal arraignment is scheduled for June 11.