Auburn officer decides not to take stand in his murder trial

Jun 17, 2024, 4:42 PM | Updated: Jun 20, 2024, 5:27 pm

Photo: Auburn Officer Jeff Nelson in midst of his murder trial....

Auburn Officer Jeff Nelson in midst of his murder trial. (Photo courtesy KIRO 7)

(Photo courtesy KIRO 7)

Auburn Police Officer Jeff Nelson and his attorney rested their case on Monday without calling Nelson to the stand to testify in his own defense.

Nelson is on trial for the 2019 shooting of Jesse Sarey. It happened as the two men struggled.

Nelson was attempting to arrest 26-year-old Jesse Sarey for disorderly conduct. Sarey was allegedly throwing garbage, banging on store windows and kicking vehicles in an Auburn shopping area.

Nelson reported he failed to comply with his arrest, leading to a physical altercation where the officer was seen on surveillance footage punching Sarey numerous times in the head and upper body. Nelson then drew his gun and shot Sarey in the torso. After Sarey fell onto the pavement, Nelson attempted to fire his gun again, before it jammed. Video then shows Nelson clearing the round, racking another bullet, and firing a second shot into Sarey’s head.

Past coverage: First-of-its-kind murder trial against Auburn police officer set for early 2022

Former Pierce County Prosecuting Attorney Mark Lindquist said the decision for Nelson not to testify means one of two options.

“Either the defense feels very confident about the prosecution’s weaknesses, or the defense is very worried about how their client will present. The defense has no obligation to put on testimony or evidence. The burden of proof is entirely on the prosecution,” Lindquist said.

The defense did call two witnesses — a records custodian and an expert on the holster. They had planned to call additional experts and the defendant but then announced this morning that they rested.

Opening statements: Auburn police officer on trial for murder

Nelson’s attorney told the jurors, at the start of the trial, they would hear Nelson testify.

“You’re going to hear from Officer Nelson. He has been waiting for five years to tell you what happened, and to explain what actually occurred,” Nelson’s attorney Emma Scanlan told the jury during her opening statement.

Lindquist called the strategy, risky.

“Jurors have different expectations for a police officer. Additionally, the defense told jurors in opening that the officer would explain what happened,” Lindquist said.

The schedule for closing arguments is being determined now and an update on that schedule is likely later this week, according to a spokesperson with the King County Prosecutor’s Office.

You can read more of James Lynch’s stories here. Follow James on X, or email him here.

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Auburn officer decides not to take stand in his murder trial