Rare defense planned for Park Police officers in Ghaisar killing

Attorneys for the two U.S. Park Police officers charged in the death of Virginia man Bijan Ghaisar have been granted a hearing, and they plan to invoke a rarely-used defense from the U.S. Constitution.

Lawyers for Lucas Vinyard and Alejandro Amaya told a federal judge Friday that they plan to argue that their clients should have immunity under the Supremacy Clause, which has only been used 11 times in the history of American jurisprudence.

The Supremacy Clause is from Article 6 and states that the Constitution and federal law take precedence over state laws.

The men are facing manslaughter charges, which their attorneys want dismissed. But Judge Claude Hilton agreed with the Fairfax County Commonwealth’s attorney that the defense will have to do more than write up their argument.

The lawyers will show their work in an evidentiary hearing to prove their burden that the officers’ actions were necessary and proper, as outlined in the Supremacy Clause.

Ghaisar, 25, was shot in 2017 in the Fort Hunt area of Fairfax County. The shooting followed a police chase on the George Washington Parkway, during which officers repeatedly tried to pull Ghaisar over without success. Ghaisar was unarmed, and he died days later in the hospital

Sources told WTOP that no matter the outcome from the hearing set to begin Aug. 23, the judge’s ruling is expected to be appealed. That process will likely mean any trial of the defendants could be delayed more than a year.

Megan Cloherty

WTOP Investigative Reporter Megan Cloherty primarily covers breaking news, crime and courts.

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