‘Sympathy can’t go into the jury box,’ defense says in ex-Balch Springs cop case

The fate of ex-officer Roy Oliver is in the hands of a Dallas County jury.

Closing statements in the murder trial ended on Monday morning. The jury deliberated until about 8 p.m. Monday and will resume Tuesday morning.

Oliver is accused of shooting into a moving car that was filled with teenagers who were trying to leave a house party on April 29, 2017, in Balch Springs. Of the five shots that were fired into the car, one hit Jordan Edwards, 15, in the back of the head. He died that night.

Edwards, an African-American, was a freshman in high school with a 3.5 GPA, prosecutor Michael Snipes said. He wanted to play football for the University of Alabama. He worked out everyday and “had a million friends.” His nicknames included “Peanut” and “Smiley.”

No weapons were found in his vehicle.

Oliver and his partner, Tyler Gross, began focusing on the car after 12 shots were fired into the air from a nearby nursing home. Those shots — let off by suspected gang members — weren’t related to the party or the Impala in which Edwards sat.

Oliver said in his defense that he thought the car was going to run over Gross. Gross and other experts testified that the car was never going toward either officer.

You saw the body camera videos ... and you clearly saw on those videos that vehicle was at no time a threat to Officer Gross,” Prosecutor George Lewis said in his closing statement.

We acknowledge and respect everything police do to protect us and keep us save ... but keep in mind that is their duty,” Lewis said. “To protect and to serve. When we have police officers like Roy Oliver, who go out and they hurt our citizens, that’s where it stops. That’s where it must stop. And you, as the jury in this case today, have a say in stopping defendants like Roy Oliver. When they start hurting our citizens on our streets, 15- and 16-year-old young men ... doing nothing wrong, that’s when you have to hold them accountable.”

Lewis defined what “reasonable” means in the law, and told jurors that even if they find that Oliver was reasonable in shooting into the car to kill or seriously injure the driver — Vidal Allen, Edwards’ stepbrother — that doesn’t make Oliver reasonable in shooting and killing an innocent bystander, Edwards.

Defense attorney Miles Brissette said he sympathizes with Edwards’ family, but told the jury they have to leave sympathy in the courtroom.

“Sympathy can’t go into the jury box,” he said. “Because if it does, this case is without its justification or means. You have to leave the speculation, the public’s sentiment, sympathy. The law requires it.”

He reminded jurors that they have to look at the case from Oliver’s point of view, not from his partner’s or from experts who looked at the events after they happened.

“He was acting on information he was given,” Brissette said, arguing that several teenagers who testified during the trial and witnessed the shooting never told the officers that the Impala wasn’t involved in the shots that were fired.

“Nobody steps up to help the officers,” he said.

He pointed to holes in statements given before and after the trial started by various witnesses — including Gross, who originally said he didn’t see the car was turning away.

“That car was a threat to Tyler Gross, and that’s why Roy Oliver was reasonable in his actions,” defense attorney Bob Gill said.

Snipes, pointing to Oliver, said Edwards didn’t deserve to die.

“This innocent kid was not doing anything wrong. He deserved the opportunity to go to college ... and you took that from him. You murdered him,” Snipes said as he pointed toward Oliver.

Friends and family in the courtroom began to get emotional throughout Snipes’ arguments. He spoke of Edwards’ achievements in life and went through the body camera video taken from Gross and Oliver, side-by-side and frame-by-frame.

“Do you see the kid in the blue hoodie there?” he said, pointing at one of the still frames. “That’s Jordan Edwards. He didn’t know he had about 10 seconds to live.”

Nichole Manna, 817-390-7684, @NicholeManna
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