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Man charged with killing police officer goes on trial

June 7, 2022 GMT

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — The trial for a West Virginia man charged with murder in the fatal shooting a police officer has begun after a judge denied a motion to move proceedings out of Kanawha County.

Testimony began Monday in the trial of Joshua Phillips, who is charged with killing Charleston Police Officer Cassie Johnson, 28, in 2020 when she responded to a parking lot complaint, news outlets reported.

Kanawha Circuit Judge Jennifer Bailey denied a defense motion to move the trial, saying the standard is not whether jurors know the facts of the case but whether they held such fixed opinions that they could not impartially judge the defendant.

“I find that we have a group of potential jurors that have indicated they can be fair and impartial in consideration of this case,” she said.

A jury of nine women and four men heard opening statements in which defense attorney John Sullivan said the question in the case is not whether Phillips shot Johnson, but whether he did so deliberately and maliciously. Sullivan said Phillips was acting in “fear and self-defense.”

Kanawha County Assistant Prosecutor Michele Drummond said the state will present evidence that Johnson was worried about her safety leading up to the shooting. Drummond said Phillips pulled a gun, prevented Johnson from getting to her gun and struggled with her before shots were fired.