Lawyers for Craig Patterson, the Arlington sheriff’s deputy who shot and killed a 22-year-old earlier this year, suggested in a court hearing Friday that their client was acting in self-defense while attempting to arrest an intoxicated and threatening young man involved in illegal activity.
Patterson, 44, is charged with first-degree murder in the shooting of Julian Dawkins. He was off duty at the time of the May 22 incident.
But an Alexandria Circuit Court judge’s rulings in court Friday morning will limit the evidence defense attorneys can present to make that case at a trial scheduled for December. A hollowed-out cigar wrapper and cash found on Dawkins when he died will not be admissible at trial, Judge William D. Hamblen decided. The defense argued that such wrappers are commonly used to smoke marijuana; prosecutors countered that the cigar is a legal tobacco product.
Hamblen ruled that the items create “no reasonable inference that Mr. Dawkins was dealing drugs,” and that the evidence could “confuse the jury.” Dawkins was gainfully employed, he noted, as a driver for “PBS’ NewsHour.” However, he said he would revisit the issue at trial if new evidence emerges, and defense attorneys may introduce evidence showing that Dawkins was intoxicated and had recently used marijuana at the time of his death.
The night of the killing, Dawkins was coming from a party at his aunt’s Alexandria house when he and Patterson got into an argument.
Prosecutors have alleged that Patterson walked away from the argument, returned with a gun and killed the young man without justification.
When the deputy called 911 to report the shooting, he said Dawkins had confronted him with a knife, according to a call previously played in court. Prosecutors said the knife was folded in Dawkins’s pocket and that Patterson’s account was not possible.
Defense attorneys said in court Friday that Dawkins had had at least eight drug-related encounters with the police, interactions that were not described in detail. They said those incidents, combined with the cash and cigar wrapper, suggested that he was possibly involved in drug dealing.
Photos of Dawkins from social media Web sites will also be excluded, Hamblen ruled, and defense attorneys will not be allowed to examine Dawkins’s phone. However, the judge ordered Alexandria Commonwealth’s Attorney Randy Sengel to turn over to the defense any photos on the phone from the 24 hours before the shooting that might bolster Patterson’s defense.
Prosecutors said they have already turned over three text messages that might relate to illegal drug use.
“The commonwealth has already given the defense . . . much more information than they’re entitled to,” Sengel said, arguing that any more would be “personal and irrelevant.”
The defense asked for funds to hire expert witnesses who would testify to the variety of psychological reactions law enforcement officers exhibit after using force, as well as the training officers receive about the potential danger of an armed attacker at close range. The judge denied the request, saying that the testimony would not be admissable.
“He’s not charged with improper police procedure, he’s charged with homicide,”Hamblen said.
The judge ruled that Patterson’s lawyers will be allowed to visit the home of a witness who testified at a preliminary hearing that she watched the first altercation between Dawkins and Patterson from her window. He also ruled that lawyers must avoid referring to Dawkins as the “victim” in the case.