EVERETT, Wash. — On Friday, a Snohomish County jury heard closing arguments in the trial of Richard Rotter. Rotter is charged with the killing of Everett Police Officer Dan Rocha in March of 2022.
The jury did not come to a verdict on Friday. The jury started deliberating around 1 p.m. on Friday and the judge decided at 4 p.m. to let the jury go home for the weekend due to the late time of day and technical issues with a DVD player.
Richard Rotter planned to plead guilty to the crime, at one point, but changed his mind at the last minute. He is charged with premeditated first-degree murder.
The main focus on Friday, by both the defense and prosecution, was if the killing was premeditated. This was also a main point in testimony earlier in the week.
Rotter's cognitive capacity is central to his defense.
Rotter claims to have a brain injury suffered in a car wreck in 1995 that put him in a coma for more than a week, along with multiple concussions from high school football and a head injury from a baseball bat.
He has also been diagnosed with PTSD, depression and substance use disorder.
Psychologist Dr. Wendi Wachsmuth confirmed those conditions. She testified Rotter was also high at the time of the killing and could not have premeditated the murder.
"His deficits at the time were such that it would be very difficult to do something so planful and organized," Wachsmuth said.
Rotter shot officer Dan Rocha five times during a scuffle. Three of those shots came at point blank range to the head. Rotter ran over Rocha with his car when he fled the scene.
Prosecutor Craig Matheson contends the five shots alone is evidence of premeditation.
"You gotta pull that trigger one, two, three, four, five times, right?" He asked Dr. Wachsmuth.
"Right," she responded.
The killing happened in March of 2022 when Rocha confronted Rotter about moving guns between two vehicles outside a north Everett Starbucks. Rotter had traveled from the Tri-Cities to Everett where he planned to buy a car.
Prosecutors contend cellphone video shows Rotter fighting to keep his right hand free in order to grab his gun and kill Rocha. That, in their minds, also proves premeditation.
But the expert witness never watched that video.
"Don't you think in a case like this where you're going to offer an opinion that you have an obligation to look at every bit of information that might have relevance to your conclusion?" asked Matheson.
"I do, and I feel like I did," replied Wachsmuth.
The defense counters that Rotter didn't come to Everett to kill a police officer, but to buy a car.
The 26 seconds of struggle leading up to the shooting put him in a fight or flight mode, not premeditation, they argued.
"His actions and behaviors were concurrent with somebody in an extremely altered state of mind," testified Dr. Wachsmuth.
On Friday, prosecutors played a video of a jail call Rotter made to try to prove Rotter intentionally shot and killed Officer Rocha so he would not be put in jail. The video call shows Rotter talking about being in survival mode and saying: "Take a wildcat and try to put a wildcat inside a cage, try that and see what happens.”
If convicted of premeditated first degree murder Rotter will spend the rest of his life in prison without the possibility of parole.
If not, he could be convicted of several much lesser charges.
The jury will continue deliberations at 9 a.m. on Monday, April 3rd.