GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — For a second time, the murder case against the officer who shot and killed Patrick Lyoya has been delayed.
On Friday morning, Kent County District Court Judge Nicholas Ayoub decided to adjourn the Aug. 30 preliminary hearing. That hearing is when both sides lay out the basics of their case and a judge decides whether there is enough evidence to send it to trial.
Attorneys for former Grand Rapids Police Department Officer Christopher Schurr filed the motion to delay the hearing. That’s because they want GRPD training records, policies and procedures for between June 2015 and April 2022.
“The defendant in every case has a fundamental right to review the discoveries so they can effectively prepare to cross-examine the state’s witnesses,” Matt Borgula, an attorney for Schurr, said. “That’s all we’re asking for here.”
Borgula told News 8 that he believes the training materials will bolster the defense’s case that Schurr acted in accordance with police policy, justifying the shooting.
“Given the circumstances given the steps that Officer Schurr took, this case is a case of a justifiable killing,” Borgula said. “Not one of murder.”
Kent County Prosecutor Chris Becker was against another delay, saying he’s ready and planning to have six witnesses. He also said the Lyoya family deserves that hearing as soon as possible.
“From my perspective, that’s going to be the most difficult thing for the victims, the victim’s family,” Becker said about the preliminary examination during Friday’s hearing. “Because of the videos and stuff like that, they’ve kind of been preparing for this.”
Still, Becker said “he’s not trying to push the (defense) in because this is a critical stage.” Additionally, though he wanted to keep the hearing for Aug. 30, he didn’t want that to open the door to an appeal by the defense later on. Becker proposed letting him present his case on Aug. 30 and setting a different day for the defense to go.
“I don’t think it would cause as much problems for them,” Becker said.
But the judge ultimately sided with Schurr’s attorneys, canceling the preliminary exam without rescheduling.
“I do think that the ability to effectively cross-examine the people’s witnesses at the preliminary examination is important enough to justify further delay,” Ayoub said.
The judge issued a subpoena for the city of Grand Rapids to turn over the training records. Becker was not opposed to that.
“I really don’t have an objection because obviously we want them to have all the materials they feel they need to proceed,” Becker said.
The shooting happened on April 4. Schurr pulled over Lyoya, 26, because the car he was driving was carrying plates that didn’t match. Video released by GRPD shows that Lyoya ran away and there was a struggle that included Lyoya grabbing the officer’s Taser. Schurr, who was on top of Lyoya trying to hold him down, shot Lyoya in the back of the head. Schurr was charged with second-degree murder on June 10.
Last month, the preliminary exam was moved from July 18 to Aug. 30 after Schurr’s defense team requested an adjournment “due to a large amount of discovery” in the case. There was no objection to the request from the prosecutor’s office that time, unlike during Friday’s hearing.
Both sides will return to court for a status conference on Sept. 23 at 1:30 p.m. to discuss the documents and next steps in the case.
“Let’s sit down with the city and get them in here and get these documents over to the defense as soon as we can so we don’t do this a third or fourth time,” Becker said.
Borgula said delays are not unusual for a second-degree murder case.
“If you look historically at this court and the speed at which things go to prelim and then to a trial, this is not that unusual,” Borgula said. “This is not extraordinary, this amount of delay. It’s called due process, and that’s what we’re doing.”
“While we want this to move forward at a speedy pace, we want to also be deliberate and make sure everybody’s rights are protected, including the state’s,” he added.
Borgula said when the defense gets the documents it needs, it’s ready to go to the preliminary examination.
“Nobody wants to get this over with quicker than Officer Schurr, who is confident that he’s going to be exonerated,” he said.
The attorneys for Lyoya’s family have argued that Schurr repeatedly failed to deescalate the interaction with Lyoya. The second-degree murder charge means the prosecutor decided the shooting could not be justified by self-defense.
If convicted of murder, Schurr, 31, of Grandville, faces a sentence of life in prison with the possibility of parole. He has been fired from GRPD.
—News 8’s Michael Oszust contributed to this report.