October 22, 2021

Jury seated in cop-shooting case

Kevin Conlon/file photo

Zachary L. Clark enters the courtroom June 21 at Cortland County Court during jury selection for his trial on charges including attempted first- and second-degree murder in connection with the March 2020 shooting of a Cortland police officer. He was convicted Monday night.

A jury was seated Monday in the trial of a Cortland man accused of shooting a city police officer three times in the leg in March 2020 when the officer responded to a dispute at the defendant’s home.

However, jury selection was set to continue this morning to choose two alternate jurors before opening arguments by the prosecution and defense attorneys were likely to begin this afternoon, Cortland County Judge Julie A. Campbell said late Monday afternoon.

Campbell said earlier in the day that the trial of Zachary L. Clark will extend through this week and potentially into next week.

After narrowing the group of potential jurors based on surveys and closed door questioning, Campbell and the attorneys for both sides took turns questioning two groups of 18 candidates to narrow the field to the final dozen. The questions were intended to determine whether any of the potential jurors had conflicts of interest or predispositions that might influence their ability to fairly reach a verdict.

Among the questions, they were asked about any history with domestic violence, their opinions of police officers, if they know any of the attorneys in the county District Attorney’s Office, whether they agree that people can react to stress differently and that people are innocent until proven guilty.

Clark, 27, of 12 Elm St. is accused of shooting Officer Chad Knapp March 27, 2020, leading to a 12-hour standoff, following a domestic dispute.

Clark is accused of attempted first-degree murder, attempted second-degree murder, first-degree assault, two counts of menacing a police officer or peace officer, and aggravated assault upon a police officer, felonies, according to court documents.

He is also accused of third-degree assault, fourth-degree criminal possession of a weapon, use of a dangerous weapon and two counts of second-degree menacing, misdemeanors; and disorderly conduct, a violation.

While COVID restrictions have dropped in many places, Monday’s jury selection was still set up with COVID protocols — such as required masking and socially distancing — in mind.

Throughout Monday morning and into the afternoon, Campbell had the more than 30 potential jurors — who were spread out across the courthouse’s main courtroom — enter into a separate room when called, answer questions and then, based upon answers, were seated into juror boxes.

Jurors responded through videoconferencing to questions asked by the prosecution, led by District Attorney Patrick Perfetti and the defense, led by attorney Jerome Mayersak.

Campbell also said that jurors selected must wait until hearing all sides before coming to a verdict.

“You and you alone will decide what the facts are in this case,” she said.

Police said previously Clark shot Knapp three times as Knapp responded to a domestic dispute at Clark’s home. Knapp was taken to Upstate University Hospital in Syracuse, treated and released the next day.

Clark had been drinking and got into a violent dispute with relatives around 7:30 p.m. shortly before the shooting, court documents show. Bryant Holl, Clark’s brother, would not let Clark borrow his car.

Clark surrendered around 8 a.m. the next morning. He was initially taken to Guthrie Cortland Medical Center and then to Upstate University Hospital for a non-life threatening gunshot wound to his left forearm.