Michael Dean’s family attorney discusses ongoing Carmen DeCruz trial

Lee Merritt tells 6 News how the family is handling the trial, what he would like to see happen in court and calls on Texans to be invested in the trial.

BELL COUNTY, Texas — A civil rights attorney representing the family of Michael Dean, a Temple man who was fatally shot by a Temple Police officer in 2019, spoke to 6 News after day three of the jury trial for Carmen DeCruz.

Attorney Lee Merritt answered questions from local media outlets Wednesday afternoon. He wasn’t able to comment on evidence in the trial as he said the prosecutors office told him out of an abundance of caution that he shouldn’t get into details to protect the case.

Merritt did discuss how the family and friends of Michael Dean are doing as information comes to light after years of waiting.

“The family will never fully recover,” he explained. “Michael Dean’s minor children will never fully recover from and that is certainly demonstrating in the courtroom — things that you don’t think would set them off. His brother’s a big tough army guy, veteran, and he was in tears next to me during the trial, where they were describing Michael, clenching the fist of an officer while they were performing life saving measures.”

Family and friends of Dean have been sitting in on the trial every day listening to testimony. However, Merritt said they have chosen to step out and not watch any of the body camera footage of the moments they lost their loved one.

“Trial process is a very sterile process, but for the family this is all very raw,” Merritt explained. “This incident, just the experience for the family has to be one of the most bewildering experiences you can imagine and Michael Dean was taken from them three years ago. His body was missing for almost a week. They were not giving any narrative as to what actually happened to him.”

At this point in the trial, body camera footage from former Temple Police Officer Carmen DeCruz has been shown in the courtroom once. Merritt would like it to be shown repeatedly as that is what he believes is best for the case.

“I think that that’s what we’re here about the whether or not he was justified or not during that moment is the critical piece of evidence ad I’ve seen prosecutors be more successful when they make it a point to highlight the most important piece of evidence in the case,” the civil rights attorney said. “I haven’t seen that done enough here. We’ve seen a lot of supplemental videos, that the first video was shown once. I would like to see that going over with the experts, with the use of force experts, and the quality of the use of force experts and the camera experts that they bring in is going to be very important in the next couple of days.”

Merritt also wanted character witnesses of Dean to take to stand to be able to humanize him, not just victimize him to the jury.

The civil rights attorney did discuss what he believes the defense will try to pull in trial in the coming days, which he described as ‘ridiculous.’

“The Defense leans really heavily, generally for law enforcement officers, it’s been my experience that they leaned very heavily on their duty,” Merritt added. “You know, Carmen DeCruz didn’t wake up that morning and say he wants to go find someone to kill but he had a duty to serve the people of Temple and they want to act like that this kind of behavior, this kind of policing is standard policing and he was keeping us all safe because none of us want to see someone going 10 miles over the speed limit in the City of Temple. I think it’s a ridiculous defense. He’s also going to have to say that he feared for his life.”

As the Dean family waits for justice and accountability, Merritt wants to remind people that DeCruz’s trial has a much larger reach than his inner circle.

“This trial is the most important thing that’s happening in the country right now,” Merritt said. “The community should really dig in. The outcome in this case will determine the safety of far too many Texans, not only black Texans, disproportionately black and brown Texans, but for every Texan.”

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