When Franklin County Sheriff’s Deputy Jason Meade used deadly force against Casey Goodson, Jr., as he entered his home shortly after noon on December 4, 2020, Meade felt justified.

He told the first officer on the scene, Clinton Township Officer Terry Phillips, "He [Goodson] came out of his car, gun in his hand as he was going to the side door as I was pulling up.."

This week, during his murder trial, Meade amended his statement including new insight into his threat assesment. He testified, "I thought he was going to shoot me." He added, "An armed suspect like that, he could go into a home and take hostages, and barricade himself to ambush police officers.”

Ohio has no legislated laws, signed by a governor, that define the justifications that allow a law enforcement officer to use deadly force. Instead, we rely on one Ohio Supreme Court case, Ohio v. White, that relied on two US Supreme Court cases, Tennessee v. Garner, and Graham v. Connor, that relied on the 4th Amendment of the Constitution, which set the boundaries for legal search and seizure. 

DEFENSE: I Thought He Was Going to Shoot Me

In presenting Meade's defense this week, his attorneys Kaitlyn Stephens and Mark Collins asked the jury to believe that Meade saw Goodson "pumping" a gun toward his dashboard as he turned left onto Ferris from southbound Karl, where Meade was waiting in his unmarked truck at the light. As he passed Meade, Goodson then pointed the gun toward Meade causing him to duck, according to Meade's testimony. 

This is a key "Graham factor" needed to establish the justification for the use of deadly force. Meade thought it gave him the "articulable suspicion" he needed to follow Goodson to investigate his actions. He radioed his colleagues from the US Marshal’s Service Southern Ohio Fugitive Apprehension Strike Team ( SOFAST)  leaving the neighborhood in other vehicles saying something like, Hey guys I’m here at the intersection of Karl and Ferris and I’ve got a guy waving a gun.

During his defense, no other witness came forward to corroborate Meade's statement. Columbus Police Officer Ryan Rosser, also assigned to the SOFAST unit, was two cars behind Meade at the light and had turned off his radio. He testified that he didn’t see Goodson's gun or Goodson either.  Meade did a U-turn and pulled around to talk to Rosser.  Rosser testified that Meade told him in a panic, “We gotta go. He’s got a gun. He’s got a gun.”

There was no doubt that Goodson regularly carried a gun and had it with him that day. It was found with two safeties on under his body on the floor in his grandmother's kitchen. He had a concealed carry permit and wore a soft holster in the front of his belt. His grandmother testified that it was uncomfortable for him while driving so he would lay the gun on the car’s console. 

REBUTTAL: The Surprise Witness

As Meade and Rosser were waiting at the light at Karl and Ferris in their respective vehicles, a heating and cooling company van was waiting in between them. 

The driver, Christopher Corne, had posted on social media shortly after the shooting that he was there that day, thinking someone might want to talk to him. But no one contacted him so he let it go, not really wanting to be in the middle of it. As the trial started he messaged Goodson's mother, thinking it was the right thing to do. She never responded. But when he posted again in the comments of a YouTube video of the trial, people supporting Goodson's family found him. 

The jury was sent home from Thursday noon until Tuesday morning to give the defense team time to depose Corne and design a strategy to challenge his testimony.

Corne testified that Goodson was singing, dancing, and waving his arms as he turned the corner. Corne said he was paying close attention to his car because Goodson took both hands off the wheel at one point. Corne felt that Goodson’s car might hit his van.

Corne was believable when he testified that he clearly saw both hands and there was no gun in either of them. 

In cross-examination Stephens attacked Corne’s credibility by pointing out discrepancies in his various statements and inaccuracies in his memory of that day. 

DEFENSE: He Could Go Into the Home and Take Hostages

After Goodson passed Meade, Corne, and Rosser, he continued east on Ferris until he turned south on Estates Place. Corne said he saw Meade make a U-turn in the Karl Rd. intersection with his police lights on. He saw Meade stop just past him to talk to Rosser, who then also made a U-turn. Corne watched to see where they were headed, then made his way back to Estates Place. 

Meade spotted Goodson sitting in his car parked on the wrong side of the street in front of his grandmother's house. He parked his truck and got out to get his tactical vest and rifle as Rosser pulled up behind him.

Meade watched Goodson get out of his car and said to Rosser, "There he is. He's got a gun!"  Rosser tried to quickly put on his vest, but couldn't keep up with Meade as he approached Goodson. Rosser ended up dropping his gun belt on the ground as he followed Meade. 

As Goodson headed for the kitchen door on the side of the house, Rosser said he saw Goodson quicken his pace. He heard Meade yelling to Goodson to show his hands. Goodson did not comply, possibly because he was listening to music through the earpods, found bloodied near his body on the kitchen floor after his death. 

As Goodson opened the storm door, holding a Subway bag, he unlocked the kitchen door. After the door was unlocked but before Goodson entered Meade said Goodson turned to point his gun at him. 

This is the point where he felt Goodson was a threat to him and the people inside the house, which would be justification for the use of deadly force. 

Meade pulled the trigger of his automatic rifle releasing six bullets, all of which hit Goodson's back. 

REBUTTAL: Actions of a Reasonable Police Officer

After the defense rested their case, the prosecution called an expert in the training and tactics of police officers. Sean Stoughton is a nationally respected law professor at the University of South Carolina who also testified at Derek Chauvin’s trial for the murder of George Floyd. 

Stoughton explained that the justification for using deadly force includes an imminent threat to the officer or others. He distinguished a risk perceived by an officer from a threat posed by a suspect. 

"Officers can’t assume aspects of threat. There is a difference between preparing for a worst-case scenario and acting as if every situation is a worst-case scenario….We have this guy with a gun who is going into a house, which is not abnormal…Something bad might be happening every time someone with a firearm goes into a house but that’s not a good reason to disregard tactical principles," Stoughton testified. 

He went on to explain that the officer would need to have other specific information that would raise this occurrence from a minor risk to an imminent threat if he got into the house.

More importantly, the officer has a duty to use tactics that will mitigate that threat. Stoughton explained that all police officers are trained regularly on these tactics. These tactics are included in the body of generally accepted policing principles and practices, which are the standard for the jury to consider what a reasonable police officer would do in a deadly force situation. 

Meade did not use the tactics required to mitigate an imminent threat, according to Stoughton. He explained the following tactical errors made by Meade.. 

  • He did not radio his dispatcher for backup at his location.
  • He did not provide his colleagues at the scene with essential information to develop an action plan and prepare to assist him,
  • He did not create additional time to accomplish other tactics and avoid creating a time-pressured situation.
  • He did not establish distance, concealment, and cover he had available to him – either from a truck or a tree in the yard.
  • He did not use his rifle as trained–for long distance accuracy. 
  • He did not take his handgu.n as he approached the house.

In Stoughton's expert opinion, Meade created the circumstances that unnecessarily allowed himself to be within the range of a suspect's weapon. His resulting fear of a man he knew to have a gun was then his problem. The law, fuzzy as it is, would not provide him justification for murder. 

What is not fuzzy are the policies established by the Franklin County Sheriff for his deputies to know and follow, published and signed off by them, in Policy AR103: Use of Firearms/Deadly Force

Section 4.2 states “In using deadly force, deputies must be aware of their backstop…” 

A backstop is the area behind their target that might receive their fire. The policy goes on to state in Section 4.3:

"Deputies may fire into buildings or through doorways only if the risk posed by the subject outweighs the risk of harm to the public by the deputy’s use of deadly force.”

An anonymous law enforcement source stated there was no circumstance in this case that outweighed the potential harm to the people that may have been in that home. 

The prosecution did not share this policy with the jury, but any reasonable officer would have received this training and consider it common sense. Meade stated he was concerned for the people in the house, but then put himself in a position to perceive a threat to his own safety great enough that he abandoned his concern for them and opened fire with an automatic weapon into a kitchen where a preschooler was eating oatmeal.

The jury is deliberating all the evidence at this time