Day 2 in WPD officer's excessive use of force trial - WECT TV6-WECT.com:News, weather & sports Wilmington, NC

Day 2 in WPD officer's excessive use of force trial

Rivers, who was 16 at the time of the incident, is seeking compensatory and punitive damages, along with other relief as part of the suit. (Source: WECT) Rivers, who was 16 at the time of the incident, is seeking compensatory and punitive damages, along with other relief as part of the suit. (Source: WECT)

Much of Wednesday afternoon’s court proceedings centered on the credibility of an expert witness and his opinion based on the sole observance of car cam video, taken the night of Tyrell Rivers’ arrest.

Corporal James Johnson is accused of choking Rivers, then 16, during an arrest on April 4, 2014.  A New Hanover County grand jury indicted Johnson for misdemeanor charges of assault and failure to discharge duties.

The prosecution had enlisted expert testimony from Officer James Combs, of Fayetteville, NC.  Combs had more than 15 years experience at the NC Justice Academy.

The defense claimed Combs opinion in the case, tainted by the fact, he was never given any incident report, or background information, leading up the arrest of Rivers.  The only information, on which Combs was making an opinion was based, solely, on observing car cam video, taken the night of the arrest.

“Were you comfortable rendering an opinion without knowing the totality of the accusations?” asked attorney J. Michael McGuiness.

“I felt fairly comfortable based on what’s taught” said Officer Combs.

The judge agreed, and Officer Combs testimony could stand.

During questioning by the prosecuting attorney’s office, Combs said he felt there was an unreasonable use of the baton, with the person in back of the car (Rivers) and that Corporal Johnson appeared to have Rivers, at one point, by the throat. 

The defense will cross examine Officer Combs Thursday morning at 9:30.

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