TULSA, Okla. (AP) — A lawyer for a former Oklahoma reserve sheriff's deputy charged in the death of an unarmed suspect told a judge Wednesday that defense witnesses will be asked about the role of stress on decision-making.
Robert Bates, 74, has pleaded not guilty to second-degree manslaughter in the death of Eric Harris last April. Bates has said he mistook his handgun for a stun gun.
Lawyer Clark Brewster told Tulsa County District Judge William Musseman on Wednesday that Bates' defense would include testimony from experts regarding police use-of-force tactics and the role of psychological stress on someone's ability to make critical decisions. Outside court, Brewster said deputies believed ahead of the sting operation in which Harris was killed that Harris had a "dangerous propensity" toward criminal behavior.
"They thought they were dealing with a very, very dangerous man," Brewster told reporters, according to the Tulsa World (http://bit.ly/1ROYVn9 ).
Brewster also told Musseman that experts would offer opinions on Harris' medical condition and alleged drug use and how they might pertain to his death. The lawyer wouldn't elaborate on whether the defense would claim that a medical condition or drugs caused Harris' death, rather than a gunshot wound.
"I think the evidence will become very clear once it's on the stand, and I prefer to communicate on those substantive legal defensive issues in the courtroom," Brewster told reporters.
Bates' trial starts April 18. He was volunteering on a sheriff's department task force when Harris, 44, was targeted for a sting operation involving illegal gun sales. Prosecutors accused Bates of "culpable negligence" in Harris' death.
Information from: Tulsa World, http://www.tulsaworld.com