Trial opens for suspect in state trooper sniper killing
1 killed; survivor has endured 18 surgeries
MILFORD, PA. | A prosecutor asked jurors Tuesday to deliver “full justice” in the trial of a man accused of killing a police trooper and injuring a second in a 2014 sniper attack at their barracks, calling the defendant an assassin who targeted law enforcement in hopes of sparking a revolution.
Eric Frein “slithered through the underbrush” in the dark of night, concealed himself in woods across the street from the Blooming Grove barracks in northeastern Pennsylvania, and took aim at Cpl. Bryon Dickson II and Trooper Alex Douglass during a late-night shift change, Pike County First Assistant District Attorney Bruce DeSarro told the panel during his opening statement.
“Right then and right there, Cpl. Dickson’s service and his watch on behalf of all of us came to an end,” Mr. DeSarro said.
Trooper Douglass, he added, has endured 18 surgeries in the wake of the ambush on Sept. 12, 2014. Trooper Douglass was in the courtroom Tuesday and is expected to testify.
Mr. Frein, 33, faces a potential death sentence if he’s convicted.
Wearing a suit, he listened stoically as the prosecutor methodically laid out the case against him, describing the attack, the chaotic aftermath, Mr. Frein’s escape and the 48-day manhunt that followed.
Mr. DeSarro told the jury that U.S. marshals captured one of the FBI’s most-wanted fugitives at an abandoned airplane hangar where authorities also found the murder weapon — a semi-automatic rifle — with Mr. Frein’s DNA on it.
After speaking for an hour and 40 minutes, Mr. DeSarro asked the jury to provide “nothing less, and I mean nothing less, than full justice.” The words were spelled out in giant blue letters on a TV screen as Mr. DeSarro said them.
Mr. Frein’s attorney’s opening statement, meanwhile, took only six minutes.
Defense lawyer Michael Weinstein reminded jurors that Mr. Frein is presumed innocent and said the government must prove its case. Mr. Frein won’t take the stand, he said, but jurors will get to know him when they watch a videotaped interview that police conducted on the night of his arrest.
“It will give you a chance to meet Eric. It will give you a chance to see what he’s like,” Mr. Weinstein said.
The defense had tried to suppress Mr. Frein’s confession, asserting police had violated his right to remain silent, but a judge ruled the jury would be permitted to see it.
Mr. DeSarro showed jurors the crumpled notebook pages that police found during the manhunt — part of a journal written in Mr. Frein’s hand in which the gunman describes how he “got a shot around 11 p.m. and took it,” watching one of his victims fall “still and quiet.”
Mr. DeSarro also showed them portions of a letter that authorities say Mr. Frein wrote to his parents while on the run.