Oct 25, 2023 - News

Murder case reinstated against fired Philadelphia police officer

Illustration of a police badge in the tray of the scales of justice.

Illustration: Lindsey Bailey/Axios

A judge reinstated all charges Wednesday against former Philadelphia police officer Mark Dial in the fatal shooting of Eddie Irizarry.

Why it matters: The case — which led to large protests and Irizarry's family demanding justice — is now expected to head to trial after another judge tossed it out during last month's preliminary hearing.

Catch up fast: Municipal Judge Wendy Pew previously ruled that prosecutors hadn't shown enough evidence of Dial committing a crime in the Aug. 14 shooting.

  • She agreed with defense lawyers, who argued Dial feared for his life when he shot Irizarry as he was sitting inside his car in Kensington.
  • Prosecutors then immediately appealed the judge's decision and refiled the charges against Dial, which include murder, voluntary manslaughter and aggravated assault.

The big picture: The case has been the subject of conflicting police accounts, with PPD first incorrectly claiming that Irizarry was outside of his car and brandishing a knife toward officers before he was shot.

  • Prosecutors have said Irizarry was holding a small folding knife near his thigh but wasn't a threat to officers when Dial opened fire within seconds of arriving on the scene.
  • Dial's attorneys have argued the officer believed Irizarry was armed with a gun and shot him in self-defense.

The latest: Following a hearing Wednesday, Court of Common Pleas Judge Lillian Ransom ruled the case should be decided by a jury.

  • Dial, who spent five years as a police officer before being fired last month, was ordered held without bail Wednesday, per the Inquirer.
  • Prosecutors and Dial's attorneys didn't immediately respond to Axios' request for comment.

What they're saying: Prosecutors said in a legal brief that the argument from Dial's lawyers that the police officer's actions were justified was better suited for a jury trial and shouldn't have been considered at the preliminary hearing.

  • "Any justification defense must await the finder of fact, who can assign appropriate weight and credibility to the evidence presented," assistant district attorney Karima Yelverton wrote in the brief.

The other side: In court pleadings, Dial's attorneys called the murder charge "ludicrous" and said prosecutors hadn't proved the killing of Irizarry was "premeditated and unlawful."

  • They also pointed to lead detective Peter Marrero's testimony during the preliminary hearing, initially recommending Dial be charged with voluntary manslaughter rather than murder.

Quick take: Rutgers law professor J.C. Lore III tells Axios that Pew likely "overemphasized" the defense evidence presented when she made her ruling.

  • "That counter evidence doesn't take away from the fact that the jury could just as easily believe what the prosecutor said happened," he says. "Judges aren't perfect, and they make wrong decisions all the time. You make the best call you can in the moment."

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