NORFOLK, Va. (WVEC) -- A jury has found a Norfolk police officer not guilty in the 2014 death of a mentally ill man.
Michael Edington was charged with one count of voluntary manslaughter in the shooting death of David Latham. He faced one to 10 years in prison had he been convicted.
Jury finds Michael Edington Jr. not guilty of Manslaughter— Norf Circ Ct Clk Off (@nccco) October 6, 2016
Prosecutors argued that Latham held the knife at his side without advancing toward Edington. The officer shot him several times.
Edington testified that Latham threatened violence, moved the knife and made a small step as if to attack.
Latham suffered from schizophrenia. His family called 911 after he grabbed a knife during an argument.
Michael Edington breaks down in tears while talking to reporters: "Waited 2.5 years to get this off my shoulders" @13NewsNow— Jemie Lee (@13JemieLee) October 6, 2016
Following the acquittal, Norfolk Commonwealth's Attorney Gregory D. Underwood issued the following statement:
Our duty is to seek justice and that's what we've done through this case. While there are officer-involved shootings in Norfolk which should be and have been determined by this Office to be a justified use of force, this matter – with contradictory information about what occurred – was not one where I could reach that conclusion after a thorough legal review. While this is not the outcome we sought, we are pleased this matter was heard by and decided by Norfolk citizens in an appropriate public forum via the jurors in this jury trial. In addition, Norfolk citizens evaluated this case through the Special Grand Jury process. We certainly understand this verdict may be especially difficult for The Latham Family. It’s our sincere hope they’re comforted by their faith, family, and friends now and going forward."
The jury spent a day and a half deliberating before reaching their verdict on Thursday afternoon.
At one point during deliberations on Thursday, the jury asked a question about the judge's instructions: "Does the phrase 'overt act' refer to a single act or one or more acts in the totality of the circumstances?"
"Overt act" is essentially what Latham did to provoke Edington to shoot in self-defense.
The prosecution told jurors this is a very narrow issue: What was Latham doing at the time he was shot? The Commonwealth's Attorney says he was standing still with knife pointed down, not threatening anyone.
However, the defense said Latham took a step. The defense also wanted the jury to consider the big picture: a mentally ill man, unstable and off his meds, threatening family members with a butcher knife.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.