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Lisa Mearkle: A Question of Self Defense or Criminal Homicide

In February a Hummelstown Police Officer named Lisa Mearkle attempted to pull over David Kassick. Mearkle noticed that the car Kassick drove had an expired inspection and emissions sticker. Kassick was not interested in pulling over that day. He sped away, leaving Mearkle with little choice but to chase after him. Mearkle caught up to him. Kassick got out of his car and took off on foot. Mearkle then reached for a stun gun and incapacitated the fleeing driver. According to authorities, this is the point where Kassick fell to the ground and Mearkle shot him twice in the back. In her defense, say Mearkle’s attorneys, he would not show the officer her hands and she felt like she had to do what she did. In accordance with Pennsylvania law, Mearkle was suspended from the police force after a charge of criminal homicide was lodged against her.

Criminal Homicide Charges          

Criminal homicide is an offense that encompasses a range of different charges. The charges can be as minimal as misdemeanor involuntary manslaughter. The exact same phrase encompasses the highest charge of felony first-degree murder. Generally a prosecutor will narrow the charges later in the process around the time that a defendant is formally arraigned. For now, this only demonstrates that the prosecutor is charging Mearkle with a criminal act that resulted in Kassick’s death. What is not clear is what theory of intent the case will be prosecuted under. Criminal homicide incorporates criminal intent levels ranging from negligence up to intentional. This means the prosecutor has not yet developed a theory of whether Mearkle killed Kassick purposely or if she showed gross indifference to his life. At this stage in the investigation, this is not an unusual determination for a prosecutor to make.

Excessive Use of Force Suspicions

In looking at the situation, prosecutors and the police department alike surely recognized the increasing attention being given to the question of excessive use of force. The prosecutors also noted that Kassick, throughout the duration of the event, was unarmed. According to the affidavit issued for Mearkle’s arrest, at the time officer Mearkle fires both rounds from her pistol, the video clearly depicts Kassick lying on the snow-covered lawn with his face toward the ground. The affidavit goes on to explain that nothing is seen in Kassick’s hands, nor is he pointing anything in the officer’s direction. District Attorney Ed Marsico stated that the officer waited a few seconds in between shots, and then performed CPR. Marscio referred to the shooting as a tragedy for all involved. An attorney for Kassick’s family stated, pointing toward excessive use of force, He should not be dead. He should not have died as a result of that traffic stop. And the manner in which he was shot you can infer from that what you will. As for the police department, their news release stated, we are servants of justice and must allow the judicial process to conduct a fair and impartial review of the allegations that have been presented.

At Brownstone Law we hope to see a fair and impartial review as well.

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