Ex-trooper's attorney claims use of taser on teen riding ATV was self-defense

Posted at 5:52 PM, Oct 23, 2018
and last updated 2018-10-23 17:52:55-04

No weapon was ever found on 15-year-old Damon Grimes, but the defense attorney for the ex-Michigan State Police trooper accused of killing the teen during a chase said his client feared for his safety.

"He thought that young man was armed," said Richard Convertino who is representing former trooper Mark Bessner at trial on charges of Second Degree Murder and Involuntary Manslaughter. 

Convertino said Bessner had the taser in his hand because he thought Grimes was going to ditch his ATV and try to escape on foot.

In his opening statement Tuesday, Convertino told jurors that Bessner thought Grimes had a gun because he claims the teen dropped one of his hands off the handlebars during the short pursuit on Rossini near Gratiot on Detroit's east side. 

"He could have shot him," said Convertino. "He used the only thing he had in his hand at the time."

But two witnesses say they never saw Grimes take his hands off the handlebars before the crash.

Wayne County Assistant Prosecutor Matthew Penney told jurors that it was not necessary for Bessner to use a taser to stop Grimes from riding an ATV on residential streets which is illegal in Detroit. 

Penney said it "was essentially a nuisance" and nothing violent requiring the use of the taser. 

It was an "unacceptably high risk," said Penney. 

Prosecutors accuse Bessner of causing the teen's death, saying Grimes lost control and crashed his ATV because Bessner used the taser on him.

MSP Trooper Ethan Berger, Bessner's partner that day, has already gone on the record to say that, if called to testify, he will plead the fifth to avoid self-incrimination.

Berger's attorney has said that early on in the investigation, Berger was considered a suspect along with Bessner so he will not testify, out of fear that one day he could face prosecution. 

The trial is expected to last about two weeks. 

Click on the video to see Tuesday's courtroom developments in the trial of Mark Bessner. 

And stay with 7 Action News for updates in the trial of Mark Bessner.