Closing arguments in the bench trial of a Southport police officer charged in the shooting death of a mentally ill teen were delayed Wednesday for the court to hear arguments for jury instruction.
Bryon Vassey, 46, is charged with voluntary manslaughter in the death of 18-year-old Keith Vidal, a mentally ill teen diagnosed with schizophrenia. Vassey is accused of fatally shooting the teen at his Boiling Spring Lakes home on Jan. 5. 2014, after the teen’s stepfather called for help. He waived his right to a jury trial and instead chose to have a judge decide his case.
Judge Richard Brown heard arguments from both sides of the case in Brunswick County Superior Court on Wednesday. After several debates on language issues, the definition of “use of force” and proposals of state and federal case law for the jury’s instruction, Brown recessed court to consider the arguments and hand-write the instructions as he “sees fit.” Brown may consider law on charges of voluntary and involuntary manslaughter.
Brown’s decision on the instructions will be heard when court resumes Thursday morning. The court needs to establish instructions for the judge to consider, so both the prosecution and defense can argue the charges set forth in those instructions during their closing statements.
The trial, which began April 19, marked its eleventh day Wednesday. The court heard from nine state witnesses and four defense witnesses in the case before the defense rested Tuesday after hearing testimony from Vassey. At the time of the shooting, Vassey was a detective sergeant with the Southport Police Department. He has been on unpaid leave since just after the shooting.
Before court broke for recess on Wednesday, Judge Brown thanked those in the courtroom for following the rules he’d set as the trial began. Since that time the courtroom’s seats have been filled with family and friends of both Vidal and Vassey. Speaking to the depth of emotion that this case has for many in the audience, Brown warned, “tomorrow may be a tough day.”
Brown said Thursday’s closing statements in the case could bring some “emotional arguments,” as he shared with them what a jury would normally hear from a judge in considering all the evidence in the case for their deliberation. As the jury in Vassey’s case, Brown said he will be following the same rules to decide Vassey’s fate and will use only his own recollection of events and evidence as presented in court during trial.
“To the best of my ability I have been taking notes and have been paying attention to this, and I am well aware of my responsibility to recall the evidence and to apply the law in this case,” Brown said.
The bench trial will resume Thursday morning with Brown’s decision on the jury instructions followed by closing arguments. Port City Daily reporter Christina Haley is covering the trial. Check back for more details from the courtroom.
Read previous trial coverage:
- Vassey trial: Use of force expert says Keith Vidal shooting was justified
- Psychiatrist testifies mentally ill teen had “risk for violence” when he was shot by officer
- Vassey trial: Stun gun expert testifies for defense
- Court adjourns in Bryon Vassey bench trial for “legal issues”
- Vidal’s mother takes stand, recalls son’s last day in Bryon Vassey case
- EMTs Testify in day four of Bryon Vassey trial
- Tearful deputy testifies she saw mentally ill teen’s eyes “go to death”
- Officer recalls struggle with mentally ill teen before fatal shooting
- Trial begins for officer accused of shooting mentally ill teen
- Trial to begin for officer charged in shooting death of mentally ill teen
Read previous coverage of the case:
- Judge continues trial date for officer charged in 2014 shooting death of mentally ill teen
- Trial date set for officer charged in 2014 shooting death of mentally ill teen
- Attorney: Not slain teen’s mother who threatened Southport officer’s wife
- Attorney claims slain teen’s mother threatened officer’s wife; family denies accusations
- Port City Daily exclusive: DA, defense attorney offer different accounts of fatal police shooting of mentally ill teen
- Officer who fatally shot schizophrenic teen charged with voluntary manslaughter
- Mental health advocates respond to fatal police shooting of schizophrenic teen
- Attorney of officer who allegedly shot schizophrenic teen: Investigation will reveal different story about fatal shooting
- SBI investigating officer-involved shooting of mentally ill teenager