Defense requests dismissal of Ellis case after controversy in final stage of trial

Controversy filled the courtroom during the final stage of the Manny Ellis death trial, as the defense requested dismissal of the case due to the prosecution’s cross-examination.

On Wednesday, the Attorney General’s Office special prosecutor Patty Eakes continued her cross-examination of Tacoma Police Officer Timothy Rankine.

Rankine is charged with manslaughter.

He was a member of the second unit who arrived on the scene during the March 2020 incident where Manny Ellis died in Tacoma Police custody.

Eakes questioned Rankine about his preparation before he spoke to investigators days after the death. However, during her questioning she used the word ‘counsel.’

This choice of word was an immediate red flag for the defense.

"You don’t get up in front of a jury and suggest that you spoke to counsel and then try to convince this court, ‘I'm not talking about speaking to an attorney,’" said defense attorney Jared Ausserer. "That’s not credible, judge. Ms. Eakes wants a mistrial because she doesn’t like how this case has gone, and that’s exactly what she just tried to do in front of this jury."

The issue is that both the defense and prosecution agreed before the trial to not reference legal representation for the defendants in this capacity. The defense claimed the prosecution did this intentionally in an attempt to sabotage the case.

Judge Bryan Chushcoff asked Eakes to explain the use of the word.

Chushcoff: "You used the word ‘counsel.’"

Eakes: "I believe what I was trying to ask him was whether or not he had time to consider and counsel himself before he was giving his statement."

Chushcoff: "Not counsel himself. Counsel means others assisted him in how to respond."

PREVIOUS COVERAGE: Second officer charged in Manny Ellis death testifies in trial

This situation delayed the normal court proceedings for about an hour. The defense asked for a dismissal of the case, but Chushcoff ruled the hearing would continue.

Also on Wednesday, Tacoma Police Officer Christopher Burbank chose not to testify.

Burbank is charged with second-degree murder. He is the only officer facing charges in the death of Ellis who did not testify.

Following his decision, the defense rested their case.

Court is scheduled to be back in session on Monday for closing arguments.