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Witness testimony and character assassination: Local news coverage of the court hearing of Chris Schurr, the man who shot and killed Patrick Lyoya

October 28, 2022

As we reported yesterday, there was a protest outside the 61st District Court in support of a guilty conviction of the former GRPD cop Christopher Schurr. On April 4, Schurr, while sitting on top of Patrick Lyoya, shot him in the back of the head, killing him instantly.

There was a great deal of news coverage, especially from the West Michigan commercial news media outlets, which is the focus of this post. MLive, channel 8, 13  and 17 on reported on the court case for Thursday, October 27. In addition, there was coverage on WGVU radio and the NPR affiliate, Michigan Radio. We will look at the coverage from each of these news outlets, which sources they used, how they framed their stories and what was omitted.

MLive

There were four separate stories on MLive, reporting on the court proceedings for October 27. The first article explained the basics of the case and let readers of MLive know that they could watch the court proceedings live online. The article also included 65 photos, many of them from before the October 27th court case, but there were also pictures from yesterday as well that are worth mentioning. The image on the left here is a still image of one of the videos captured from April 4, the day that Christopher Schurr killed Patrick Lyoya. The image is a freeze frame of the video that the Defense was using to make arguments about how Lyoya “took control” of the taser from Schurr. The image on the right is of a former cop and video expert, Robert McFarlane, who was also brought in by the defense attorneys to bolster their case. Here is a link to McFarlane’s Linkedin page, which provides additional details on his history.

A second MLive article centers around a witness in the case, Wayne Butler, who said he pleaded with Patrick to stop resisting the GRPD cop who shot and killed Lyoya. This article is for MLive subscribers only, so I am unable to comment on it. 

A third MLive article is headlined, Patrick Lyoya took control of officer’s Taser before fatal shooting, defense claims. In this article both the defense lawyers and the prosecuting attorney are cited, although more space was given to the defense attorneys who argued points about the taser, the blood/alcohol level of Patrick and the claim from the defense attorney that Lyoya was “living as another person.” It is clear that the defense attorneys want to attack the character of Patrick Lyoya and make the claim that he was living a “different life.” 

A fourth MLive article centers around the likelihood that the law office of Ven Johnson will likely file a lawsuit against Christopher Schurr for the murder of Patrick Lyoya. In this article, a witness for the defense, once again attempted to denigrate Lyoya. A lawyer with Ven Johnson’s firm responded to the character assassination of Lyoya, stating:

“The family finds it upsetting, as we do, that they bring out things that don’t have anything to do with the killing,” Waun said.

“He didn’t shoot him because they had a Bridge card in the back of the car. He didn’t shoot him because he had somebody else’s ID in the car. He didn’t shoot him because (Lyoya) was intoxicated.

“To bring out all of these things just to kind of muddy the waters with regard to Patrick, to make him look bad, to try and justify what happened, I believe that’s just wrong,” he said

WZZM 13

There were two stories on October 27th that appeared on WZZM 13. In the first story posted by channel 13, it provides some preliminary information about the case, a fair amount of testimony offered by the witness, Wayne Butler, and similar commentary from the defense, commentary meant to discredit the character of Patrick Lyoya.

The other story from WZZM 13, rehashes much of the information already known to the public, but in this story they also cite a criminal defense attorney who works for a law firm in Kalamazoo. The lawyer provided some scenarios about how the case could go and made a few clarifying comments about the case. However, this source offered no significant information or analysis about these types of criminal cases.

WOOD TV8

Channel 8 aired just one story from October 27 about the court hearing. In their story they cited Aime Tuyishime, a friend of Lyoya and the passenger of his car on April 4, the day he died. In addition, the neighbor who witnesses what happened was cited, along with an expert for the defense and a GRPD cop, Sgt. Nicholas Calati. Channel 8 gave Calati some airtime, but if you wanted to read his police report statement, go to this link and read page 5.

The WOOD TV8 story did include information about both supporters of Schurr and supports of Patrick Lyoya who were there yesterday. No one who supported Schurr opted to speak with the news media, but someone who was there as part of the protest spoke with channel 8. 

WXMI 17

The coverage from WXMI 17 provided much of the same information that the other commercial media sources reported. However, there were two significant differences, First, it their main story, WXMI provides a complete recording of the entire court proceedings from October 27, in three parts, thus allowing people to watch and listen to everything that took place that day. 

The other story that WXMI aired centered around those protesting outside the court building, which included an interview with one of the organizers and even footage of the march that took place later in the day. 

Radio coverage

There was also some radio news coverage of the preliminary hearing in the case of Christopher Schurr. WGVU radio ran a very brief story that added no new information or perspective on what happened yesterday.

The other radio news story was from Michigan Radio. In that story, one of the witnesses, Wayne Butler, was cited extensively, along with an acknowledgement that another GRPD cop testified. The Michigan Radio story concluded by stating that the judge in this case would likely decide on Friday if and when a trial would take place.

The news coverage was over all fairly balanced in terms of hearing from both of the legal sides of this case. Overall there was a typical narrative that all of the commercial news outlets stuck to, but it is worth noting that WXMI 17 did post – in three parts – the entire court proceedings from October 27 and they provided a more robust story on the people who were protesting in support of Patrick Lyoya and demanding that the courts convict Chris Schurr. As we noted last month, much of the commercial news coverage up to this point had been demonstrating a bias in favor of Chris Schurr, although that may change, especially if this case goes to trial.

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