Officer Takes The Stand In His Defense

Steve Strickler testified on Monday that Marcus Malone was fine when he was brought to the Moss Point jail on the night of September 13th, 1999.

After five days of testimony, the former Moss Point Reserve officer took the stand on his own behalf on Monday. After that, the defense rested its case.

Strickler also told jurors that he did not know what caused Marcus Malone to die, but he was certain it was not because of anything he did.

Strickler was on the stand for more than two hours recalling the events that lead up to Malone's death. Strickler said when he pulled Malone over, it was to give him a warning ticket for having a broken headlight. But he said the routine traffic stop at the intersection of McCall and Community Streets soon turned into a violent struggle. That's when Strickler said he was forced to call in back-up.

"I've never dealt with someone so strong as him," Strickler told jurors.

Strickler admitted grabbing Malone by the neck.

"Between the two of us, we couldn't control Mr. Malone. It seemed like an eternity, but the struggle probably lasted two minutes."

After the struggle, Strickler testified Malone was taken to his patrol car and driven to the city's jail alive.

Later that night, Stickler's commanding officer told him Malone had died. Strickler testified he was shocked, and said he asked his commander "How in the world did that happen?".

Strickler went on to say, "It floored me."

"At no time at the jail did I see him in any distress."

"If I would have know he was in trouble, he would have gotten immediate medical care."

Before Strickler testified, jurors heard Air Force Col. Abubark Marzouk, the fourth pathologist to testify in this case. He detailed the defense argument that Malone's excessive use of cocaine led to his death, and not the struggle with police officers.

Col. Marzouk said cocaine abuse can lead to heart problems as minor as a heart murmur or as severe as cardiac arrest. In Malone's case, he said the heart slowed down so much he died and that the death was accidental.

Closing arguments begin Tuesday morning. Strickler faces 20 years in prison if convicted.