Pine City, MN (NNCNOW.com) - After more than three hours of deliberation, a jury has found Duluth Police Officer Richard Jouppi not guilty of assault and disorderly conduct.
According to our partners at the Duluth News Tribune, Jouppi was found not guilty of fifth degree assault and disorderly conduct after taking five swings at 50-year-old Anthony Jackson, who was in wheelchair, and knocking him backwards out of the chair, in a Duluth detox center in September of 20-12.
The jury went into deliberations around 4:15 and returned a verdict more than three hours later.
In a Facebook following the verdict, Duluth Police Chief Gordon Ramsay said "While I respect the judicial process I am very disappointed by the verdict in the Richard Jouppi case. His actions on September 21, 2012 were not consistent with department training or policy, bringing discredit to our department and detracting from the excellent work our women and men do on a daily basis. As I said previously, we will do everything we can legally to ensure he never works for our department again."
Jouppi took the stand in his own defense on Thursday, saying that after his first swing, the threat was not controlled, as Jackson was still flailing his arms.
Jouppi said he didn’t know Jackson’s intent as his arms were still in a position to strike.
He testified that at no point did he think that Jackson was not a threat to him, as he had already demonstrated he had no problem assaulting an officer.
Jouppi said after thinking about the inicident over the last year, he still believes he acted with reasonable use of force.
Testifying as the last witness for the prosecution, Lieutenant Robert Shene said he felt Jouppis's use of force was reasonable to a point.
However, he added the fourth and fifth punches appeared to be excessive and he felt there was no need to dump Jackson out of the wheelchair.
The last witness for the defense took the stand Friday, disagreeing with Shene’s testimony.
Commander Joshua Lego, a use of force expert with the St Paul Police Department, testified that Jouppi’s use of force was reasonable.
Lego said Jouppi was caught off guard by the strike at his face by Anthony Jackson. Lego justified the strikes back at Jackson by saying when a person is assaultive, officers need to control them as fast as necessary to prevent further injury.
Lego said Jouppi had every right to imply greater force than the force Jackson used on him.
Lego stated that an officer should fight like they are protecting their family and there is a great deal at stake for police officers.
He testified that if an officer perceives his actions are not working to eliminate a threat, a 3rd, 4th, 5th or even 10th blow would be reasonable depending on context of situation.
Closing arguments took place Friday afternoon.
Prosecutor Shawn Reed said the police are paid to protect us, protect and serve, and to enforce the law- which does not mean they are above the law.
Reed asked the question "can a police officer assault a civilian?", saying yes and that Jouppi did.
The defense refuted the argument and asked whether a police officer can assault a suspect..saying that once an officer is attacked, the person is no longer a civilian, they are a threat.
Defense Attorney Fed Bruno asked "how is a cop supposed to react to felony assault?, answering that they should fight like they are protecting their their family.
Bruno stated that according to the Duluth Police Department's use of force policy, Jouppi would have been justified in killing Anthony Jackson or using deadly force, but he didn't.
The trial began on Monday with jury selection. Testimony began Tuesday but was halted due to an evacuation after envelopes with white powder were found inside the courthouse. Court proceeded nearly four hours late on Wednesday.
Ten witnesses were called between the defense and prosecution.
Jackson did not testify during the trial, as he could not be located.