WASHINGTON — One D.C. police officer is charged with murder; his lieutenant is accused of conspiring with him to obstruct justice, and now their historic trial is finally drawing to a close.
After a month and a half, jurors Wednesday listened intently to closing arguments in the case against Officer Terence Sutton and Lt. Andrew Zabavsky in the police pursuit death two years ago of Karon Hylton Brown, 20.
Asst. U.S. Attorney Ahmed Baset told jurors here that this case is not "rocket science."
He called it cold-blooded murder, with Officer Sutton using his vehicle as a murder weapon to chase Hylton Brown down a blind alley and flush him out into oncoming traffic, where he was hit and killed.
Realizing what they’d done, the prosecutor said Sutton and Zabavsky conspired to cover it up and obstruct justice.
Baset repeatedly played video of the crash and the minutes afterward that were recorded on officers' body cameras.
With Hylton Brown’s mother watching, Baset told jurors Sutton was well aware that chasing a man on a moped for three and a half minutes on traffic charges violated MPD policy – because he’d been reprimanded for chasing someone else just a year earlier.
“This man murdered my child. He chased my child. It seems to me, it’s going to keep going on. We’re going to keep crying for the rest of my life," said Hylton Brown's mother, Karen Hylton, at a rally outside the courthouse on Tuesday.
But Sutton’s lawyer, with his voice breaking, painted the officer as a man who had dedicated his life to helping others. J. Michael Hannon said evidence of Sutton’s good character should alone be enough alone for jurors to find reasonable doubt.
“Karon Hylton Brown had 10 times the amount of THC in his body that would adversely affect a normal person – to say nothing of the oxycodone,” he told them.
But the judge stopped him when he suggested the prosecutor’s intent in trying him was “malevolent.”
Baset said Sutton showed "conscious disregard of an extreme risk of death or serious bodily injury," and therefore is guilty of second-degree murder. But he told jurors that if they did not find all the elements to convict him of murder, they could find him guilty of involuntary manslaughter.
Hannon jumped on that, telling jurors, "Their case has fallen apart, and they want you to compromise." He said Sutton is "completely innocent" of all the charges against him.
Jurors have more than a month and a half of evidence and testimony to sort through. They are slated to start deliberating Thursday morning, and there’s no telling when they might come back with a verdict in this unprecedented trial.