Jurors hold decision until Monday on Najee Rivera trial
On Friday afternoon, jurors asked for more time to resume deliberations on the trial in which Kevin Robinson and Sean McKnight — two former Philadelphia Police Department officers — face multiple charges for the 2013 beating of Najee Rivera in the Fairhill neighborhood.
Both the defense and prosecution delivered their closing statements Friday morning before Judge Charles Ehrlich and the jury.
Fortunato Perri Jr., the attorney for Robinson and McKnight, noted that both men had left college careers and other opportunities behind in order to join the Philadelphia Police Department in the 25th District — an area known for its high crime rate.
“In this case, you saw police work that is real, and real police work is not pleasant,” Perri said. “We had the opportunity to evaluate their decisions in a well-lit room. Not out in Sixth and Cambria Streets like they did. They reacted and did police work in a dangerous situation.”
Perri discredited the video of the situation, a key piece in the Prosecution’s narrative, calling it “grainy” and “blurry.” “The evidence shows that no directives were violated,” he said. “We know now that Najee Rivera made a dangerous situation that night when he decided to flee, doing everything in his power to run from the police at 9:45 that night.”
Brian McMonagle, the second defense attorney for the duo of ex-cops, continued with a teary-eyed account of his experience as a father. He asked the jurors to be the kind of juror that they would like to have in that situation.
The defense made reference to a line in the Pennsylvania State Code which states that police officers don’t have to “retreat or desist from efforts to make a lawful arrest” in case the suspect offers resistance or threatens it.
Speculating as to why the victim was fleeing from the police that night, McMonagle said “I wonder what [Najee Rivera] got rid of in those streets.” He also mentioned the victim’s death, which occurred after Rivera was allegedly breaking up a fight near C and Somerset Streets in December of last year.
Visibly upset over the previous statements by the defense, Assistant District Attorney Andrew Wellbrock began his closing statements saying that the burden of proof had been reached with the evidence presented. “Robinson was never against the wall, there was no lawful arrest, they did not provide first aid attention,” Wellbrock said.
The video found by Rivera’s girlfriend was played at normal speed, then again in slow motion with several still frames. The audience murmured and gasped as the video showed the violence in detail.
“What these men did was inadmissible,” Hallbrock told the jurors as he showed them up-close pictures of Rivera’s injuries to the head and right eye.
The jury deliberated for two hours and no conclusion was reached. The Judge let them leave and come back on Monday, not without advising them to avoid reading any media coverage of the case, contacting each other for further discussion, or visiting the scene of the event to conduct reenactments.