Fox News senior judicial analyst Andrew Napolitano told "Your World" Wednesday that Atlanta authorities likely intend to use former police officer Garrett Rolfe's felony murder charge in the death of Rayshard Brooks to secure conviction on a less serious charge at trial.
"The reason you charge all the lesser included offenses, some of which are inconsistent with others because murder requires intent and they have non-intent crimes in there," Napolitano told host Neil Cavuto, "is to give a jury ... an opportunity to compromise. So, the state might actually be gratified with a compromise verdict."
In addition to felony murder, a charge Napolitano said would be "very difficult" to prove, Rolfe is charged with five counts of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, first-degree criminal damage to property, and four counts of violating his oath as a public officer.
If convicted of felony murder, Rolfe could face life in prison or the death penalty, if prosecutors choose to seek it. A second officer, Devin Brosnan, has been charged with aggravated assault and three counts of violating his oath. Fulton County District Attorney Paul Howard told reporters Wednesday that Brosnan had agreed to testify against Rolfe.
Brooks was shot Friday night after resisting arrest following his failure to pass a field sobriety test. Shortly before he was shot, Brooks grabbed one of the officers' Tasers and pointed at them as he tried to flee the scene.
Napolitano told host Neil Cavuto that a jury would have to consider whether Rolfe thought his life was at risk when Brooks fired the Taser.
"A trial judge will tell the jury that if a police officer thinks that deadly force is aimed at him, and if his thoughts are reasonable -- even if it's a rubber band and a paper clip, but he thinks it's a deadly force -- then he is justified in using deadly force ...," he said. "All officers know that Tasers produce 50,000 volts of electricity. That's enough to stop an elephant. It's certainly enough to kill a human being.
"Whether they're characterized as deadly weapons or not, the judge will tell the jury, if the officer reasonably believed it was a deadly weapon and reasonably believed it was aimed at him, he was justified in using force," he went on.
"The second thing the court will tell the jury is, when cops at a scene are faced with choices between life and death, the life of somebody who they think poses a threat and the death of themselves, they are allowed to make that decision in favor of defending themselves. So again, the test here is not what a reasonable person would think, but what a reasonable police officer would think."
Brooks' death added to the mounting controversy surrounding race and policing in America, following the death last month of George Floyd in Minneapolis police custody. Atlanta Police Chief Erika Shields resigned less than 24 hours after Brooks died, and the Wendy’s where the incident occurred was burned during a protest Saturday night.
About 50 demonstrators were gathered in the parking lot of the restaurant — now a burned shell with “RIP” and “Rayshard” spray-painted on it — as the charges were announced. The news prompted a few raised fists.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.