AJC Watchdog: First Alert

Keeping watch on those who hold the public trust and money

Grand jury next step for Atlanta police officer charged with murder

Former Atlanta Police officer James R. Burns, charged with murder in the on-duty shooting death of a motorist, was in a Fulton County courtroom for a preliminary hearing Monday, but the hearing was postponed. Burns is charged in connection with the shooting of Deravis Caine Rogers June 22. The case could go before a Fulton County grand jury as early as Aug. 9.

Burns, who was fired last month after an internal affairs investigation found the shooting unnecessary and excessive, has not spoken publicly about the case.

His attorney, Drew Findling, said at a bond hearing earlier this month the charges were premature and that his client feared for his life when he shot Rogers.

Those arguments and the prosecution's case will both be tested when the grand jury meets this month.

Officers in Georgia are rarely charged in fatal police shootings. Even though the evidence presented to a grand jury is largely controlled by the prosecution, an officer's ability to testify before a grand jury can be a powerful factor in advancing their case. Findling did not say whether his client will testify before the grand jury when it meets.

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About the Author

Brad Schrade is a Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter on the AJC’s investigative team.