HomeAsian AmericansOpening statements begin in trial for officers accused in Manny Ellis death

Opening statements begin in trial for officers accused in Manny Ellis death

CW: This article contains descriptions of death.

Opening statements have begun in the trial of three Seattle police officers charged in the death of 33-year-old Manuel “Manny” Ellis, KOMO News reports. Ellis was killed in March 2020, just a few months before the murder of George Floyd sparked a nationwide movement.

Tuesday’s opening statements began a day after two weeks of jury selection ended Monday, KIRO News reports.

The three officers facing trial are Christopher Burbank, Matthew Collins and Timothy Rankine. Rankine is facing first-degree manslaughter charges in Ellis’ death. His fellow officers Burbank and Collins, who are both White, are facing second-degree murder charges.

Court documents say Collins placed Ellis in a neck restraint while Burbank fired his taser directly into the 33-year-old’s chest. When Rankine arrived he applied pressure to Ellis’ back, while the other officers “hogtied” Ellis. A Pierce County medical examiner ruled his death a homicide by asphyxiation.

During the opening statements, jurors heard Ellis’ last words before he died, KOMO News reports.

“I can’t breathe, sir. I can’t breathe, sir. I can’t breathe,” Washington Assistant Attorney General Kent Liu said, repeating Ellis’ final words for the jurors.

“We are here today because this should not have happened,” Liu later said. “Mr. Ellis did nothing wrong.”

Lawyers for the officers have hired people they claim can prove Ellis’ death was caused by his use of methamphetamine. Ellis’ loved ones have spoken out against the defense team’s attempt to smear Ellis’ name.

“From the beginning of this case, it was clear to me that the officers’ defense strategy would be to try and assassinate my brother’s character,” Monet Carter-Mixon, Ellis’ sister, said in a statement via email, according to KOMO News. “Let’s be clear, Manny is not on trial. The focus of this case needs to be on the three Tacoma police officers and the extreme police brutality that occurred on March 3, 2020, not defaming my brother’s character when he can’t defend himself.”

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