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The trial of Punta Gorda, Florida Police Chief Tom Lewis continues on Wednesday. Lewis is facing a charge related to the death of 73-year-old Mary Knowlton, who was participating in a tour for 35 civilians as part of a Citizen Police Academy. During the program, Knowlton was selected to participate in a “shoot/don’t shoot” simulation scenario, where she was shot and killed by Officer Lee Coel with what turned out to be a live round in Coel’s gun, instead of blanks.
Lewis is facing a misdemeanor charge of culpable negligence, as prosecutors are blaming him for not putting in place safety protocols that could have prevented the tragedy. Coel will face a separate trial for first-degree manslaughter.
On Wednesday, after the prosecution rested their case, the defense moved for the judge to dismiss. Normally, such motions are met with a polite nod and the judge moves forward with the trial. In this case, however, Judge Devin George went back to chambers to consider the defense’s motion, then returned and explained (out of the jury’s presence) why the prosecution had enough of a case to continue given the nature of the charge.
The defense then began presenting their case during the limited time remaining in the afternoon. They will continue to call witnesses on Thursday.