[Homestead] Pepper paste daubed in eye update
tvoivozd at infionline.net
Thu Sep 23 00:09:19 EDT 2004
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Judge Declares Mistrial in Case Over Whether Police Abused California
*By David Kravets* Associated Press Writer
Published: Sep 22, 2004
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) - A federal judge declared a mistrial Wednesday when
a second jury deadlocked on the question of whether police went too far
by swabbing pepper spray on the eyes of bound, nonviolent logging
protesters in 1997.
U.S. District Judge Susan Illston ruled after jurors sent her a note
asking whether all eight jurors must agree on the outcome. The jury had
voted 6-2 in favor of the activists.
"I felt it was an unnecessary use of force given the circumstances,"
said juror Scott Michael. He said authorities could have cut the
shackles off protesters to arrest them.
Under federal law, all jurors must agree on a verdict, unless both
parties agree to accept a non-unanimous verdict. Attorneys for the
protesters told the judge Wednesday afternoon they would agree to a
non-unanimous verdict; attorneys for the Humboldt County Sheriff's
Department said no.
The judge took the lawyers into her chambers to try to broker a
settlement; it failed. Jurors tried once again to deliberate but
maintained they were deadlocked.
An initial trial in 1998 on the same allegations also ended with a
deadlocked jury, which voted 4-4.
One of the plaintiffs, Mike McCurdy, 29, said they wanted to pursue the
case. "We believe the police crossed the line," he said.
Settlement talks ended when attorneys for the officers said they would
not agree to the activists' demand that police stop using pepper spray
on nonviolent protesters.
"It's like asking them not to use a gun when they respond to a robbery,"
attorney Bill Bragg told reporters.
Tony Serra, the activists' attorney, said the case was about trying to
ban the use of pepper spray on those practicing civil disobedience.
"They are unwilling to agree to that," he told reporters. "Therefore, I
agree there will never be a resolution."
Just 10 minutes after the judge ordered jurors back again, they wrote
another note saying they were "hopelessly deadlocked" and that further
deliberations would be "pointless."
The judge then declared the mistrial.
The panel had hinted at trouble soon after deliberations began Tuesday,
sending out a note saying: "Regretfully, there are jurors that are
adamantly opposed and resolution does not seem likely."
The latest trial lasted two weeks. At issue is whether police use of the
pepper spray was abusive and illegal on the protesters, who had shackled
themselves together, or whether it was a legitimate law enforcement
Serra told jurors officers treated protesters like "wild beasts."
Nancy Delaney, the attorney for the officers, said authorities did not
wish to use power tools to unbind the protesters, fearing it could have
"severed digits." She said they swabbed pepper spray to get them to
unlock their shackles and be removed from private property.
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