Mesa, Arizona Police Officer On Trial: Murder of Self Defense

As the trial of former Mesa, Arizona police officer Mitch Brailsford comes to a close, an 8 person jury in Phoenix will have one main question to decide : Was it Murder or Self Defense?

Prosecutors have maintained that the former police officer unloaded 5 rounds from his AR-15 into the victim, who was laying on the ground crawling toward officers who barked commands. Brailsford’s attorney, on the other hand, has argued that the victim reached into his waist band and then brought his hand up in a “drawing motion,” causing Brailsford to believe that he was reaching for a gun, authorizing Brailsford to act in self defense.


Arizona authorizes the use of deadly physical force if there is a reasonable belief that one’s life, or the life of another is in danger. The right to use deadly physical force in self defense ends when the apparent danger ends.

Most importantly, once the defense raises the issue of self defense, the prosecution must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant did not act in self defense.


Much of the evidence against Brailsford comes from video footage captured by the body camera that Brailsford wore. Other police officers at the scene testified that they did not feel as though they were in imminent danger.


Realistically, in order to generate a jury instruction on the issue of self defense, a defendant must testify and state that they were in fear for their life, or the life of others. Brailsford took the witness stand in his own defense and testified to just that.

Not only an expert witness in the area of use of force testified that Brailsford’s actions were reasonable, but the police officer who trained Brailsford in the use of deadly force testified that Brailsford acted in accordance with his training and that he would have also fired his gun if he were in the same situation.


Yes and No. In a criminal case, either party can ask the judge to instruct the jury on lesser included offenses; that is, offense whose elements necessarily encompass the primary charge with which the defendant is charged.

For example, Brailsford is charged with second degree murder. Manslaughter and negligent homicide are lesser included offenses of second degree murder. The court may well instruct the jury on these other crimes if requested. This would give the jury a less serious offense for which Brailsford could be convicted if the State does not prove that he intentionally killed the victim, as is required for a second degree murder charge.

If, however, the State cannot prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Brailsford did not act is self defense, then the jury must find him not guilty and the lesser included charges will not even be considered. In other words, if Brailsford acted in self defense, the jury must find him not guilty on the murder charge and the case will be over at that moment.


For over 25 years, Jason Lamm has distinguished himself not only as one of the best criminal defense attorneys in Phoenix, Arizona, but as one of the foremost authorities on murder cases and issues related to self defense. He is frequently called upon as an expert legal analyst by national network and Phoenix area television stations.

If you or someone close to you is being charged or investigated for murder, manslaughter, or negligent homicide, it only makes sense to get the most reputable and effective criminal defense attorney behind you. Jason Lamm is the principal in Phoenix’s only boutique criminal defense law firm and has achieved unparalleled results for his client by his aggressive and detail oriented approach. Jason is extremely knowledgable about Arizona’s self defense laws and incorporates them into his trial strategy in a practical and effective manner. Confidential consultations can be scheduled by calling (602) 663-9100. When you are facing murder charges, your best offense is the best criminal defense attorney.

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