Tuesday, July 15, 2003
Testimony in Police Beating Trial Continues After Judge Rejects Bid to Allow Media Back In
From Staff and Wire Service Reports
Testimony in the trial of Inglewood Police Officer Bijan Darvish and former Officer Jeremy Morse resumed yesterday morning after Los Angeles Superior Court Judge William Hollingsworth denied a bid to readmit electronic media to the courtroom.
Hollingsworth banned television and radio coverage for the duration of the trial after the face of a juror appeared on television during opening statements last Thursday. Media organizations argued in vain yesterday for restoration of coverage.
Among those arguing was Beverly Hills attorney Leo J. Terrell, representing himself and KABC Radio. Terrell hosts a Sunday night talk show on the station, and has been attending parts the trial as an observer.
Terrell urged the judge to accept an apology for Thursday’s occurrence, which the cameraman said was inadvertent, and to allow both television and radio coverage. But Hollingsworth, a retired judge hearing the case on assignment at the Airport Courthouse, was unmoved.
Terrell called the exclusion “horrible” and “draconian” and said community confidence in the decision would be undermined as a result of the lack of coverage.
“Regardless of the verdict, people are now going to question it,” Terrell told the MetNews. “They are going to say that something went down wrong.”
When testimony resumed, a prosecution use-of-force expert said that based on some videotape he viewed the slamming of teenager Donovan Jackson on to the trunk of a police car last summer was unreasonable.
Los Angeles County sheriff’s Capt. Charles S. Heal was shown the tape shot by an amateur, then was asked if the force Morse used on July 6 last year was reasonable.
“Yeah, we would not consider that reasonable,” Heal said. “He lifted [the then-16-year-old] up and slammed him on the car.”
Heal testified that it is common to put people under arrest on the hood or trunk of a squad car, but “slamming him on [it]...there is no way we would put up with that.”
“In your opinion, is that slam reasonable?” Deputy District Attorney Max Huntsman asked.
“No,” Heal said.
“In your opinion is that slam necessary?”
“No,” the captain replied.
Under cross-examination by Morse attorney John Barnett, Heal testified that he would need more information than the videotape to conclude that too much force was used. He acknowledged that the only thing he had relied on in forming his opinion was the video.
“It’s difficult for me to reconcile the dropping on the trunk,” the witness said, adding that it was “one step beyond what I would have expected.”
Heal was asked what his reaction would be if another bona fide use-of-force expert came in and had a completely different conclusion regarding the reasonableness of what Morse did.
“I’d argue with him,” Heal said.
Under cross-examination, the captain acknowledged that he could see how a 25-year-old officer would think such conduct was reasonable.
If that were a deputy under Heal’s supervision, the witness said at one point, “He’d have gotten his chain rattled in my office.”
“Would I have filed on him?” Heal asked rhetorically, before answering his own question. “No.”
On redirect by the prosecutor, he said he still thought the slam was unreasonable.
“I just cannot reconcile, in my conscience, slamming [the youth] on the hood,” Heal said.
George Zuk, coordinator of special education for the Centinela Valley Union High School District, also testified for the prosecution.
He said reports show Jackson has an intellectual capacity that falls within the lower average range, and he has “processing deficits.”
“He may not process all the information that he receives,” Zuk testified, noting that could be aggravated if a student is under duress. Zuk said he had met Jackson once—last summer.
Huntsman asked if Zuk believes Jackson has such deficits.
“Yes,” the witness replied.
Morse is charged with assault under the color of authority. His former partner, Darvish, 26, is accused of filing a false police report.
The encounter between the officers and Jackson was caught on tape by both a surveillance camera at the gas station where the confrontation took place—defense lawyers say the tape from that camera establishes that Morse acted reasonably—and the bystander’s video camera.
Copyright 2003, Metropolitan News Company