No defense in Eric Frein trial; jury to get case Wednesday
(Allentown) Morning Call
MILFORD, Pa. — Jurors returning from their midmorning break in the Eric Frein trial Tuesday were met with an eerie image in the center of the courtroom that had not been there when they left.
A life-sized manikin, dressed in Pennsylvania State Police Cpl. Bryon Dickson’s uniform, complete with gun and duty belt, stood in the center of the room, draped in gauzy white plastic.
After the plastic was pulled aside, a forensic pathologist called by Pike County District Attorney Raymond Tonkin used the model to demonstrate the trajectory of the two bullets that killed Cpl. Dickson, 38, during a Sept. 12, 2014, ambush at the Blooming Grove state police barracks. It was a dramatic ending to the prosecution’s case, which concluded Tuesday following 10 days of testimony and 535 exhibits.
In stark contrast, Mr. Frein’s defense lawyers rested their case moments after Mr. Tonkin, calling no witnesses and offering no evidence.
The abrupt end to the evidentiary part of the trial sets the stage for closing statements Wednesday morning and a possible verdict by the end of the day.
If the jury finds Mr. Frein guilty of first-degree murder, their job will not be done. The penalty phase of the trial, in which both sides call witnesses and argue for and against capital punishment, would likely begin Thursday.
Mr. Frein’s attorneys raised few objections during the trial and rarely cross-examined the commonwealth’s witnesses.
Lawyers Michael Weinstein and William Ruzzo did not say why they chose the path of least resistance, although Mr. Weinstein hinted at it during his brief opening statement when he told the jurors that Mr. Frein would not be testifying.
Mr. Frein, 33, of Barrett Township, Monroe County, is standing trial on a dozen charges, including first-degree murder of a law enforcement officer and terrorism. He has pleaded not guilty.
Prosecutors say Mr. Frein lay in wait in the thick woods that surround the barracks in rural northeast Pennsylvania for hours before opening fire with a sniper rifle during a shift change. Cpl. Dickson, a married father of two and former Marine, bled to death after being shot twice in the torso as he stepped outside the barracks lobby just before 11 p.m.
Trooper Alex Douglass, 33, was critically injured in the shooting. He testified Monday, describing in detail the 18 surgeries and constant agony that have marked his life since he was shot in the pelvis while kneeling over Cpl. Dickson.
Trooper Douglass, an 11year veteran of the force, was an avid athlete who ran a 50mile ultra-marathon just months before the shooting. Now, he told the jury, he cannot walk without a leg brace.
Trooper Douglass did not say Mr. Frein’s name or acknowledge him in the courtroom but called the person who shot him a “coward.”
Jurors on Tuesday morning also viewed the bulletproof vest that Cpl. Dickson was wearing when he was killed. A warning label inside the vest read “not intended to protect against rifle fire or knives.”
More autopsy photos were shown, including one that depicted the corporal’s left hand, his wedding band glinting in the light of the autopsy theater.
Photos through the scope that was allegedly attached to the murder weapon were displayed.