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The audacity of lawyers: Postponing the trial for the cop that murdered Patrick Lyoya

February 12, 2023

On Friday, it was reported by several local news agencies that the Judge Mark Trusock has granted a delay in the trial of Christopher Schurr. Schurr was the GRPD cop who shot and killed Patrick Lyoya last April.

The lawyers for Schurr asked the court to postpone the trial until October, meaning the trial would not begin until 18 months after Schurr shot Lyoya in the back of the head after a routine traffic stop. We’ll get to the reasons that Schurr’s lawyers used in order to get the trial delayed, but first I think it would be useful to provide a brief timeline from the murder of Patrick Lyoya to the present. 

April 4th, 2022 – During a routine traffic stop, GRPD Officer Christopher Schurr shoots and kills Patrick Lyoya. GRPD and City officials hold Press Conference.

April 14, 2022 – GRPD and Grand Rapids City officials released video of the GRPD cop who shot and killed Patrick Lyoya.

April 26, 2022Pro-Police groups go on the offensive, support Christopher Schurr and argue that Patrick Lyoya died because he refused to obey a cop.

May 5, 2022 – Local news submits Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request to get internal GRPD documents related to the Patrick Lyoya shooting.

May 12, 2022 – Mayor Bliss threatens to change City Commission meeting rules to prevent disruptions by the Justice4Patrick Movement.

May 23, 2022 – MLive article on Officer Christopher Schurr normalizes White Supremacy and White Saviorism. 

June 10, 2022 – Cop who killed Patrick Lyoya is charged with second degree murder, plus responses from GR City officials.

June 12, 2022Lawyers now representing Schurr release a statement attempting to control the public narrative, which reads in part: “We were disappointed to learn that Officer Schurr has been charged with murder by the Kent County Prosecutor. Officer Schurr is a decorated member of law enforcement who has dedicated his career to helping others and protecting the citizens of Grand Rapids. The evidence in this case will show that the death of Patrick Lyoya was not murder but an unfortunate tragedy, resulting from a highly volatile situation. Mr. Lyoya continually refused to obey lawful commands and ultimately disarmed a police officer. Mr. Lyoya gained full control of a police officer’s weapon while resisting arrest, placing Officer Schurr in fear of great bodily harm or death. We are confident that after a jury hears all of the evidence, Officer Schurr will be exonerated.”

June 22, 2022 – Once again the Grand Rapids commercial news media presents a narrative that favors the ex-GRPD cop who killed Patrick Lyoya.

July 27, 2022 – New GRPD “Sanctity of Life” policy announced.

September 25, 2022 – Hearing on the Christopher Schurr case, where Schurr’s lawyers say they now have all of the documents needed for this case.

October 27, 2022 – Another hearing in the Schurr case to finalize the trial date.

October 28, 2022 – Witness testimony and character assassination: Local news coverage of the court hearing of Chris Schurr, the man who shot and killed Patrick Lyoya.

January 12, 2023 – Lawyers representing Schurr submit 45 page brief arguing the charges against Schurr should be dropped.

This brings us to last Friday, where the lawyers representing Christopher Schurr were granted a delay in the trial date, which will now take place in October. There were two reasons submitted by Schurr’s lawyers as to why the trial should be delayed:

  1. They needed more time to, “mull over more than 30,000 pages of files in the case.”
  2. Matthew Borgula, one of Schurr’s attorneys, explained to the judge that one of the members of their trial team recently died, and his co-counsel also recently lost an immediate family member. 

To the first point, Schurr’s lawyers have had all the documentation they needed since September 25. In addition, as most law firms do, they often utilize or hire additional staff/clerks to sift through documents relevant to cases they are working on. Needing more time for the 30,000 pages seems like a weak argument and borders on petty.

On the second point, I am assuming that these family members weren’t murdered, rather they died under less horrific circumstances. Having the trial delayed by 7 months seems rather excessive. Most of us in this society rarely get much time off to grieve the loss of family members. More importantly, Patrick Lyoya’s family will now have to wait an additional 7 months to see if there will be any justice or possible closure. Is there no consideration for their grief, which is a direct result of the murder of their family member? Losing a family member to murder is a much more traumatic and horrendous death to deal with and will no doubt impact Patrick’s family for the rest of their lives. In using the loss of a family member, the lawyers representing Schurr not only insult the family of Patrick Lyoya, their request is a form of mockery, even taunting, as if to say, “we don’t give a damn about your loss and your grief.”

Some people might say, well it’s only another 7 months til the trial, so just be patient and wait. Such sentiment is a construct of white supremacy, not only because it is insensitive, but because it essentially erases the centuries of harm done to Black people by systems of power and privilege. You might recall what Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. had to say to white people, when they urged him to be patient, to wait for justice. Dr. King responded, while sitting in a jail cell in Birmingham, Alabama, and wrote these words:

We know through painful experience that freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed. Frankly, I have yet to engage in a direct action campaign that was “well timed” in the view of those who have not suffered unduly from the disease of segregation. For years now I have heard the word “Wait!” It rings in the ear of every Negro with piercing familiarity. This “Wait” has almost always meant “Never.” We must come to see, with one of our distinguished jurists, that “justice too long delayed is justice denied.” We have waited for more than 340 years for our constitutional and God given rights. The nations of Asia and Africa are moving with jet like speed toward gaining political independence, but we still creep at horse and buggy pace toward gaining a cup of coffee at a lunch counter. Perhaps it is easy for those who have never felt the stinging darts of segregation to say, “Wait.” But when you have seen vicious mobs lynch your mothers and fathers at will and drown your sisters and brothers at whim; when you have seen hate filled policemen curse, kick and even kill your black brothers and sisters; when you see the vast majority of your twenty million Negro brothers smothering in an airtight cage of poverty in the midst of an affluent society; when you suddenly find your tongue twisted and your speech stammering as you seek to explain to your six year old daughter why she can’t go to the public amusement park that has just been advertised on television, and see tears welling up in her eyes when she is told that Funtown is closed to colored children, and see ominous clouds of inferiority beginning to form in her little mental sky, and see her beginning to distort her personality by developing an unconscious bitterness toward white people; when you have to concoct an answer for a five year old son who is asking: “Daddy, why do white people treat colored people so mean?”; when you take a cross county drive and find it necessary to sleep night after night in the uncomfortable corners of your automobile because no motel will accept you; when you are humiliated day in and day out by nagging signs reading “white” and “colored”; when your first name becomes “nigger,” your middle name becomes “boy” (however old you are) and your last name becomes “John,” and your wife and mother are never given the respected title “Mrs.”; when you are harried by day and haunted by night by the fact that you are a Negro, living constantly at tiptoe stance, never quite knowing what to expect next, and are plagued with inner fears and outer resentments; when you are forever fighting a degenerating sense of “nobodiness”–then you will understand why we find it difficult to wait. There comes a time when the cup of endurance runs over, and men are no longer willing to be plunged into the abyss of despair. I hope, sirs, you can understand our legitimate and unavoidable impatience. 

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