AUSTIN (KXAN) — Closing arguments wrapped up Tuesday in the murder trial for Austin Police Department Officer Christopher Taylor.

The day prior, attorneys representing Taylor finished presenting their case after the state rested last week. Taylor is on trial for murder in the death of Michael Ramos.

Taylor shot and killed Ramos, 42, during an incident with police back in April 2020 at a south Austin apartment complex’s parking lot. Taylor is on administrative leave with APD.

Closing arguments

State prosecutors began their closing argument by placing a photo of Ramos on a stand in front of the jury and once again walking them through the scene and through elements of the charge against Taylor.

The state reminded the jury that nobody was in front of Ramos’ vehicle when he was shot and killed by Taylor. They also, on multiple occasions, said finding Taylor guilty of murder was not dishonorable to the profession of policing.

“All that we ask is that you apply the law in this case in which we believe that this defendant shot and killed Mr. Ramos when there was absolutely no reasonable basis for doing so,” the state began.

Because the state has the burden of proof, they were allowed to split their time — and wrapped up their closing argument after the defense presented. During that time, Prosecutor Gary Cobb for the first time in this trial pointed to racism.

He talked about Medgar Evars, who was shot and killed in 1963. Cobb told the jury despite overwhelming evidence, the man who shot and killed Evars, who was Black, walked free initially because he was tried by a white jury.

“Look in the mirror as a jury and you see how differently things are and why that matters,” Cobb said.

Meanwhile, the overall message from Taylor’s attorneys: The only thing that matters in this trial is whether Taylor’s “perception of the threat was reasonable.”

During their closing statement, they called state evidence a distraction, said prosecutors left evidence out and pointed to discrepancies in that evidence. The defense specifically pointed to testimony from Ramos’ girlfriend and digital reconstructions the state presented.

Doug O’Connell, one of Taylor’s attorneys, told the jury he believed this was a “political prosecution.”

“You cannot convict Chris without evidence rising to guilt beyond reasonable doubt. That’s the highest standard in the legal system. And I respectfully submit, we’re nowhere near that in this case,” O’Connell said.

Ken Ervin, another attorney for Taylor, ended the defense’s closing argument by asking the jury to look at the evidence, read the charge against Taylor and “come to the conclusion that Officer Taylor is not guilty of murder.”

Shooting scene visit

Before closing arguments, the jury visited the scene of the shooting.

Judge Dayna Blazey announced Tuesday before the jury was taken to the scene, that attorneys could not speak to the jurors while there. She also instructed the audience and the news media not to film or photograph the jurors.

State prosecutors filed the motion to have the jurors view the scene. The defense joined that motion, Blazey said.

  • APD Officer Christopher Taylor watching as jurors view the shooting scene (KXAN photo/ Frank Martinez)
  • The jurors in APD Officer Christopher Taylor's trial were taken to the shooting scene Tuesday (KXAN photo/Frank Martinez)

KXAN talked to Jon Wisser, a senior district court judge in Travis County, about that scene visit. Wisser is not involved in this trial.

“I have been a judge in Travis County for 50 years now, and I have no recollection of this having occurred either in my court or any other court, so it’s exceedingly, exceedingly rare — especially with advent of video cameras, computer-generated scenarios,” Wisser said.

Previous coverage of this trial:

Defense: Expert witnesses called Monday

Monday afternoon, the defense called a professor of psychology from the University of Texas at Austin as its final witness. Dr. David Gilden specializes in what was described in court as “visual perception,” specifically what Taylor may have perceived during the shooting.

Before the jury was brought into the courtroom, the state asked Gilden to say exactly what his testimony would help the jury understand in this case.

“[The] jury has the impression that the car {Ramos was driving] is in full view to anybody looking through an optic and that there should be absolutely no question in the mind of Mr. Taylor that the car is turning,” Gilden said. After a long pause, he continued: “And that is misleading.”

To this point in the trial, the jury has been shown several reconstructions of what Taylor may have seen when he fired shots. Gilden testified that those did not capture the narrowness of what Taylor could perceive and went so far as to call the state’s version “cartoonish.”

During cross-examination, the state questioned Gilden’s qualifications and highlighted that he had only testified two times previously.

“What qualifies you to determine what’s relevant to a jury in a criminal case?” Prosecutor Gary Cobb asked. Gilden responded that “what information is available to a person who is aiming” is “the most important thing to be addressed.”