Attorneys for the former Atlanta police officer charged with felony murder in the fatal shooting of Rayshard Brooks sought to remove the district attorney prosecuting the case Monday.
Fulton County District Attorney Paul Howard has repeatedly made comments to inflame public sentiment against Officer Garrett Rolfe, has issued contradictory statements about whether a stun gun is a deadly weapon and is under investigation himself, attorneys Noah Pines and William Thomas Jr. said in a court filing.
“Paul Howard has systematically sought to deprive Garrett Rolfe of a fair trial and impartial jury since the day he announced his decision to arrest Garrett Rolfe,” the attorneys said.
They are seeking to recuse Howard and the Fulton County district attorney’s office from the case.
In a statement, Howard said he had received the filing and will respond to it when it is assigned to a judge.
Police body cameras showed Rolfe, who is white, and another officer having a calm and respectful conversation with Brooks, who was Black, for more than 40 minutes after complaints that Brooks had fallen asleep in his car in a Wendy’s drive-thru lane on June 12.
But when officers told him he’d had too much to drink to be driving and tried to handcuff him, Brooks resisted. A struggle was caught on dash camera video. Brooks grabbed one of the officers’ Tasers and fled, firing it at Rolfe as he ran away. An autopsy found Brooks was shot twice in the back.
The killing renewed protests in Atlanta that followed the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis in May.
Howard announced charges against Rolfe less than five days after the killing. Lawyers for both officers have said their actions were justified.
In Monday’s court filing, Rolfe’s attorneys said Rolfe did not exclaim, “I got him,” when he shot Brooks as Howard alleged at a news conference announcing the charges. They also accused Howard of falsely saying the other officer at the scene, Devin Brosnan, had agreed to serve as a witness for the prosecution against Rolfe, and they questioned the decision to allow attorneys for witnesses and Brooks’ family to speak at the news conference.
Howard, additionally, should be disqualified because he is facing investigation for subpoenas in the Brooks’ case and his use of funds, Rolfe’s attorneys said. His statements about Tasers would also make him a witness for the defense, they said.