A lawyer for the man who allegedly invoked ISIS after shooting Philadelphia Police Officer Jesse Hartnett two years ago called Hartnett a hero and implored jurors on Thursday to put aside their emotion and anger, and focus less on the accused gunman than on his right to a fair trial.
As opening statements in the trial for Edward Archer got underway, his lawyer, Michael Coard, told jurors the wounded officer "is a great man and a great hero, and we all agree on that."
Coard offered few clues as to how he and his co-counsel, Trevan Borum, planned to defend Archer except to cite his client's erratic behavior and angry outburst Monday, when he made derogatory remarks about his two court-appointed lawyers. Even though the lawyers failed in their bid to have him declared unfit to stand trial, Coard called Archer's conduct the "10,000-pound elephant in the room," and urged the jury to think of the defense team's client as the law or the Constitution.
"Put aside emotion, put aside anger, put aside sympathy, and listen to the law," he said.
Archer, 32, didn't shirk from his earlier statements. Saying he only pleads in the name of Allah, he refused Thursday to formally enter a plea to the battery of charges from the unprovoked Jan. 7, 2016, attack on Hartnett as the officer sat in a patrol car in West Philadelphia.
Hours after his arrest, Archer allegedly told a homicide detective he was motivated by his devotion to Allah and the Islamic State — a claim that drew national attention, although authorities ultimately found no proof of any connection to any terror group.
In her opening statement, Assistant District Attorney Jan McDermott told the jury Archer's plan that night was to kill police officers.
"Edward Archer was lying in wait. He was lurking. He was dressed from head to toe in layers and layers of clothing" and armed with a 9mm semi-automatic gun, she said.
When he spotted Hartnett's car near 60th and Spruce Streets, she said, Archer fired 13 bullets at close range into the driver's side of the car, striking the officer's left arm three times. Bones were shattered and nerves and tendons were damaged, she said.
As she described the shooting, and played recordings of the attack and the frantic aftermath, Hartnett's relatives wept in the second row of the courtroom.
Archer, wearing a light gray sweatshirt and dark track pants, appeared to smirk as the video was shown.
He is not expected to testify. Hartnett is.
Among those attending the arguments Thursday was Police Commissioner Richard Ross Jr. and John McNesby, president of the local police officers' union. During a break in the trial, McNesby said he thought Archer's unwillingness to enter a plea was a ploy.
"I believe he's playing a game, and the end result is, he's trying to avoid the death penalty or some sort of penalty that ends his life," McNesby said. "So it's probably a smart tactic on his part."