Jury deliberations begin in Thomas Johnson trial

Rochester, NY (WROC) – A jury is deliberating in the trial of Thomas Johnson III, the man who killed a Rochester Police Officer.

At issue is whether or not Johnson intended to kill officer Daryl Pierson back on September 3rd.

The jury will have to sift through the testimony of dozens of witnesses, and surveillance video of the event. The jury has to answer several questions about Johnson’s actions that night.

In her closing argument, District Attorney Sandra Doorley described a man with a parole warrant, out for his arrest, who would do anything to avoid going back to prison.

“You don’t take out a gun, you don’t put your finger on the trigger of that gun, point it at a police officer muzzle to flesh and then pull that trigger if you don’t intend to kill,” attested Doorley.

Johnson’s defense however believes there’s reasonable doubt about what was in defendant’s mind the moment the gun went off on Hudson Avenue, as officer Pierson caught up to him after a brief chase.

“To go in and argue they should exonerate him would be ridiculous,” claims defense attorney, James Hinman. “The law assesses levels of responsibility in terms the legislature defines, and they assess different levels.”

Aggravated Murder — the intentional killing of a police officer — carries a sentence of life without parole. The defense hopes the jury goes for Manslaughter.

“if the jury concludes officer Pierson was acting in the course of his official duties at the time of his death, then in that instance, and they conclude that Mr. Johnson did not act intentionally but acted recklessly,” explains Hinman. “Yhat is the definition of ‘Aggravated manslaughter.'”

Then there’s the question of whether or not Johnson attempted to kill Pierson’s partner, officer Michael DiPaola.

Hinman says the bottom line is that Johnson never fired the fun in Dipola’s direction. “If you’re attempting to kill someone, you need to fire a gun,” he says.

Doorley nonetheless believes the firearm was jammed.

Wednesday, both the defense and prosecution played the compilation of surveillance video showing the moment Pierson was killed. Both believe the jury will labor over that video during deliberations.

“During those 18 seconds, there’s a lot going on,” says Doorley. “I wanted to really have the jury focus on different aspects so they could put it all together when they go back into the jury room and begin deliberations.”

The jury was sent home at 4:45pm.  They will continue deliberations tomorrow morning.

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