HARRISBURG, Pa. — A decision about whether prosecutors can make public a video that authorities have said shows a Pennsylvania police officer fatally shooting an unarmed man in the back is in the hands of a county judge after a brief hearing on Tuesday.
Dauphin County Judge Deborah Curcillo did not indicate when she would rule on an effort by the lawyer for Hummelstown Police Officer Lisa Mearkle to prevent the video's release.
Defense attorney Brian Perry argued the video was likely to affect potential jurors and would present a partial and misleading impression of the events that caused the death of 59-year-old motorist David Kassick in early February.
Mearkle, 36, waived a preliminary hearing on Monday on a charge of criminal homicide, so prosecutors had no opportunity to play the recording in court. Perry said that it has not been admitted as a part of the official record.
"It's got to be admitted," Perry said Tuesday. "It wasn't admitted."
Police said Mearkle attempted to stop Kassick's vehicle for expired inspection and emissions stickers on Feb. 2, after which he drove away, reaching high speeds. When he did stop he got out and ran, and Mearkle was able to catch up to him.
She shocked him four times with a stun gun, equipped with a video camera, before shooting him twice in the back, four seconds apart, as he lay face down. Perry argues she acted in self-defense, concerned he was reaching into his waist while she demanded he show his hands.
The case has parallels to the fatal shooting of South Carolina motorist Walter Scott earlier this month. In that case, a witness captured video of the officer firing eight times as Scott ran. That incident began as a traffic stop for a broken tail light.
Dauphin County prosecutor Johnny Baer told the judge on Tuesday his office was not advocating for the video's release but also was not opposed to it. The Associated Press and other news outlets have requested the video.
"I see this as a matter between the news media outlets that have submitted a request to see it, and the court," Baer told Curcillo.
A lawyer for PA Media Group, which publishes Pennlive.com in Harrisburg, said previous state appeals court decisions support the argument that the tape has become a piece of the judicial record in the case.
The lawyer, Craig Staudenmaier, said it was not enough for the defense to warn that the jury pool might be tainted by the release.
"There's also a compelling interest of the public in this proceeding," Staudenmaier said.
Christopher Slusser, a lawyer working for Kassick's family who has seen the video, said it "leaves nothing to the imagination."
Mearkle, who attended the court proceeding on Tuesday, is free on bail but is under electronic monitoring. She has been suspended without pay.