An attorney for a woman on trial in the slaying of a Chicago police officer in 2008 suggested Monday that the shooting was accidental, telling jurors that the officer's gun went off as the two wrestled after the officer body-slammed her.
Assistant Public Defender Brendan Max repeatedly described his client, Robin Johnson, as "distressed and confused" at the time and said surveillance video would show that it was not her intention to kill the 27-year veteran officer.
"You'll be able to tell that nobody grabbed anyone's gun," Max said during the opening statements. "At the most what happened here was the struggle for a gun."
Officer Richard Francis, 60, was shot in the head on the morning of July 2 as he investigated complaints that Johnson had been harassing a passenger aboard a CTA bus less than a block from the old Belmont District station at Belmont and Western avenues. Francis was patrolling the streets alone that night.
The first witness called by the prosecution, the driver of the CTA bus, said she saw the officer grab the woman as she tried to walk away, both fell to the ground and then she saw a muzzle flash.
"I panicked and screamed," Tracey Jackson testified, dabbing at tears in her eyes.
Another witness, Jennifer Orze, who was in her car at the time of the shooting at about 2 a.m., testified she saw the officer atop a woman as the two struggled.
Cook County prosecutors also played the emergency dispatch call in which an officer at the scene shouted, "Officer's been shot! Officer's been shot!"
Clad in a black jacket and a teal collared shirt, Johnson, now 50, sat expressionless at the defense table for much of the day.
More than two dozen spectators, including Francis' widow, packed into the small gallery of Judge Thomas Gainer's Jr.'s courtroom at the Leighton Criminal Court Building as both sides in the case told jurors what the evidence would show at the trial.
Assistant State's Attorney Charise Valente told the seven-man, five-woman jury that one officer responding to the call of a disturbance saw Johnson pointing the gun at Francis' head before he was shot. As many as three other officers saw her holding the weapon after the shooting, she said.
Johnson was shot multiple times after she aimed the gun at the officers while taking cover behind Francis' patrol car, Valente said.
"She was going to shoot them," Valente told jurors.
Johnson's blood was recovered from Francis' gun, Valente said.
Max suggested to the jury that scientific evidence couldn't prove that Johnson fired Francis' gun. While gunshot residue was found on the officer's hands, it couldn't be determined if there was any on Johnson's, Max said.
"She never committed first-degree murder," Max told jurors. "She reacted the best she could while being slammed around."