LEBANON, Ohio - The defense attorney for Marcus Isreal says his client is not innocent. Clyde Bennett says Isreal is responsible for the crash that killed Warren Co. Sgt. Brian Dulle, but it was not murder.
Before opening statements began on Tuesday morning, the jury loaded up in vans for a tour to re-trace the chase route that started in Franklin and ended in a deadly crash in Turtlecreek Township on May 10.
Warren County Prosecutor David Fornshell, in his opening statements, detailed the chase and the high speeds involved. He told the jury that the evidence will show that Marcus Isreal stole a black Cadillac from a bar in Middletown. Fornshell said it was parked, with the keys in the ignition, in the parking lot.
A police officer, in Franklin, spotted the car, with no working tail lights, around 1:45 a.m. on May 10 and began to purse the Cadillac. The chase went on for quite a while through construction zones, residential areas, and rural areas. Fornshell said Isreal sped through stop signs and red lights and even drove in the wrong direction down a divided highway. Fornshell also said he drove several cars, including a Warren County sheriff's vehicle and civilian cars, off the road as he raced past them.
Fornshell said because of the reckless nature of his driving, his act was murder. Fornshell said, "The defendant knew that the way he was operating that vehicle would cause physical harm to someone. As a result we are going to ask you to find Marcus Isreal guilty in the murder of Sgt. Brian Dulle."
Fornshell added, "What did he think would happen. Ladies and gentleman, the evidence will prove that the defendant operated his vehicle in a manner that was capable of causing death."
Clyde Bennett followed with his own statements saying that his client is not an innocent man. He said Marcus Isreal is responsible for the crash, but his actions were not intentional to harm anyone. Bennett said, "He was not trying to cause harm to anyone, he was trying to escape. He was not thinking about crashing his car, let alone injuring someone. He was trying to escape. He did not knowingly cause or attempt to cause harm to anyone, let alone Sgt. Dulle."
Fornshell said evidence, his team will present, includes video from cruiser cameras, radio dispatch and testimony from the Ohio State Highway Patrol investigator who reconstructed the entire chase and crash.
The defense has no witnesses on its list at this time. Based on the opening statements, the defense will not try to deny the evidence that Isreal was the driver that caused the deadly crash. The main purpose of the defense is to avoid a murder conviction. Bennett is trying to get the jury to determine that Isreal is guilty of something, but not murder.
For the prosecution, the first witness on the stand was Warren County Sheriff Larry Sims. He testified about how he was notified about the chase and crash and that Sgt. Dulle was killed. Sheriff Sims testified that he immediately went to the crash scene to get an update on the situation. He showed some emotion as he was asked to describe what he did next. He said, at that time, he and officers from his department went to the Dulle home to tell Sgt. Dulle's wife, Abbie, that her husband was killed in the crash. He also described the search for Sgt. Dulle's wedding ring which came off his finger because of the tremendous impact from the car. He said volunteers searched the area and he was glad to present the ring to Abbie Dulle on the day of her husband's funeral.
The defense cross examined the sheriff, but only about the investigation reports and his knowledge of specific reports and what they stated.
The prosecution also called two Franklin police officers to the stand to testify about their role in the chase on May 10.
Another witness to take the stand was Karen Richardson, from Middletown. The 32-year-old told the jury about what she saw during the early morning hours of May 10. She said she was waiting at a red light when she noticed lots of police lights flashing and cars coming toward her at a high rate of speed. She noticed the lead car with the lights on, but it was not a police car. She said it was driving directly at her car and did not appear to be ready to move to either side of her. She said she panicked and froze where she was. She said, at the last second, the driver of the car swerved to her left to avoid collision. She then saw several police cars drive past her in pursuit of the lead vehicle.
The first day of testimony ended with the testimony of two Springboro police officers and their role in the chase and what they witnessed.