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Detroit teen's ATV death: Final conference today for ex-state trooper who used Taser

Mark Bessner returns to court Wednesday for pretrial conference

Mark Bessner at a pretrial hearing Monday, April 16, 2018. (WDIV)
Mark Bessner at a pretrial hearing Monday, April 16, 2018. (WDIV)

DETROIT – A Michigan State Police trooper accused of firing his Taser at a 15-year-old boy, who crashed his ATV and died in Detroit, is scheduled to head to a second trial this spring.

Mark Bessner is facing second-degree murder and involuntary manslaughter charges in Damon Grimes' death on Aug. 26, 2017. A mistrial was declared in October after jury members failed to reach a unanimous decision.

Bessner returned to court Nov. 7 for a pretrial conference, and Judge Margaret Van Houten announced the new trial will begin April 1.

Friday is the final pretrial conference in the case. Any negotiated plea or resolution would have to be reached by the pretrial date, Houten said.

Bessner remains on tether

Bessner's defense asked for his tether -- which he's been wearing for nearly a year -- to be removed, arguing he's not a flight risk.

"There's no valid reason that I can think of for him to remain on the tether," his attorney said. "I don't think there's a legal reason. He's not a risk of flight. He's proven that over and over, and we would ask that the court enter an order to remove the tether."

The defense claims Bessner wants to be able to leave his home to look for a job.

Prosecutors argued there's no reason to remove the tether, and Houten agreed.

"I've never let someone out facing a murder charge without a tether at least without a significant bond," she said.

Houten said Bessner can leave his home on the tether from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. to look for a job and work if he finds one. He is also allowed to visit his attorney's office and take his daughter to school.

Judge declares mistrial

A hung jury in Bessner's trial left the judge no choice but to declare a mistrial.

The decision was made Oct. 31 after the jury deliberated for three days without reaching a verdict.

"At this time, we have no choice but to accept their hung jury and their mistrial," Houten said.

"The family is distraught," Grimes family spokesperson Oliver Gantt said. "To me, it's just another black eye in the community when it comes to officers shooting black men."

Gantt said he believes there were red flags from the start.

"We hope that they have a more aggressive prosecutor next time and they have a better jury, even though we know you're entitled to a jury of your peers," Gantt said.

Defense attorney Richard Covertino said there was too much for the jury to figure out.

"The evidence was so difficult," Covertino said. "It's such an emotional case and impassioned case that I think they just had difficulty wading through the evidence and giving it the deliberations."

Bessner did not comment outside court.

The prosecution and the defense are now gearing up for round two.


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