Medical Professionals and Police Officer Testify in WS Domestic Violence Case

photo by Lauren King, Court Watch Intern
photo by Lauren King, Court Watch Intern

By Makisha Singh and Tiffany Yeh

On July 18, 2013, the 36-year-old victim was taken to the emergency room at UC Davis Medical Center for treatment. The photos taken by the attending police officers and medical professionals depicted heavy damage to the left side of the victim’s face including bleeding under the eye, swelling around the eye, and bruising around the eye.

Dr. Anna Nidecker, a neural radiologist at UC Davis Medical Center, stated that the victim’s CT scan indicated bruising around the left eye, and on two spots on the back left side of the head. It also indicated a fracture of the maxilla, the bone that connects nose to cheek.

Dr. Zachary Soucy, an emergency room doctor at UC Davis Medical Center, testified that the victim came in with complaints of assault, having been choked, kicked, and hit with a pistol by her boyfriend. The victim claimed no loss of consciousness and complained of tenderness on the middle of her spine and impaired vision of the left eye. She was prescribed morphine, which, the prosecuting attorney clarified, is only used for significant pain. During cross-examination, the defense attorney asked if the victim had been tested for drugs or alcohol, and Dr. Soucy said she was not. He also asked if the injuries indicated what kind of blunt force was applied to the victim and what kind of weapon was used. The doctors explained that they could not determine what specific object was used to cause the injuries.

Inmate Caesar Lawson was called as the next witness but was excused after invoking his Fifth Amendment right to remain silent.

Officer Don Schlie was dispatched to the scene of the incident, where the victim was found in an upstairs bedroom. Schlie took photos of her injuries and the EMTs transported her to the hospital. In one photo, her left eye was still open but, in later photos, her left eye was closed due to the increased swelling. There was also more blood on her face in the one photo, as medical professionals had not yet had a chance to clean her wounds. According to Schlie, the victim told him that her boyfriend, Jonathan Pryor, told her he was going to “f-ing kill her,” then struck her in the head with the barrel of a what she believed to be a small black automatic gun. A friend of the victim, Jocelyn Wilson, who was also present, claimed to have arrived after the incident and therefore could not provide further evidence of what happened. At the time the police arrived, Pryor had already left and the only other person present was Caesar Lawson.

At the Medical Center, the victim was upset and crying. She told the police officer that she and Pryor had been together for seven months and had been living together for three months. She explained that, the night before, she had gone out to a bar with her friend, Ms. Wilson, and arrived home around 3 AM. Later that morning, Lawson told her that Pryor and his brother were home and that she should move out. That was when she claims Pryor came upstairs and assaulted her. She claimed that Lawson pulled Pryor off of her and believed that, if he hadn’t, Pryor probably would have killed her.

Medical Professionals Testify in Domestic Violence Case

Five people were in court testifying. First, as indicated above, Caesar Lawson, under custody for other charges, was subpoenaed and brought to court. The Deputy District Attorney, Deanna Hays, asked Mr. Lawson several times if he would answer questions. He refused to answer any questions and declined to testify whether it was his voice on the 911 call. At one point, the DDA held him in contempt of court. The judge eventually excused him from the courtroom.

Dr. Natasha Kye is an ophthalmologist at UC Davis Medical Center. She is now in residency and was there when the victim was in the ER. She has no independent recollection of the details that night, but reviewed the three-page ophthalmology note that was typed up within an hour of seeing the patient. Blunt force trauma was recorded.  The victim was assaulted  with a fist and a firearm on the left side of her head. The victim saw floaters (floating points of light) and was seeing flashes of light. Pain was of 8 out of 10 (with 1 being the lowest and 10 being the highest level), and she was seeing light less brightly in her left eye. The lens and retina were intact and the back of the eye was fine, but there was swelling around the left eye and on her left eyelid. The orbit, the bony cavity that holds the eyeball, was fractured, and bleeding around the eye was reported. DDA Hayes asked Dr. Kye how much force would be required to fracture the orbit of the eye, and she replied that there is a range and that it depends [on a number of factors].

Tasuna Murphy has known the victim for 19 years and was a friend of hers at the time of the incident. Ms. Murphy saw the victim about four or five times in 2013, as they would see each other occasionally. Ms. Murphy and her son were supposed to pick the victim up at 3:30 PM that day, but Ms. Wilson let her know what happened. The victim no longer had her phone with her. Ms. Murphy called UCDMC to find out which room the victim was in. When Ms. Murphy saw the victim at the hospital, she described the whole left side of the face as battered and almost unrecognizable. She stayed with her at the hospital for a couple of hours.

The victim had been living with Mr. Pryor and now had nowhere to stay, so after the victim was released from the hospital, she stayed at Ms. Murphy’s house for two days. Ms. Murphy recounted that blood was coming out of the victim’s ear and nose two days after the beating. Ms. Murphy was going on a birthday trip for ten days so she dropped the victim, along with her friend from Pryor’s house, Ms. Wilson, at the Embassy Suites in West Sacramento. The victim still had a puffy face and a black eye. At Pryor’s house, picking up Ms. Wilson, Ms. Murphy did not go into the house but did hear of a Caesar Lawson being there.

Either the victim or Ms. Wilson told Ms. Murphy what happened on July 18, 2013 (she does not remember who told her). She said she was told that the victim came home late with Ms. Wilson, and the defendant, Mr. Pryor, accused the victim of cheating and being a prostitute and hit her with a gun. At the end of July of 2013, the witness left on a trip to the East Coast.

In cross-examination, Defense Attorney Justin Ward seemed to insinuate that Ms. Murphy was trying to get a reduced sentence for a prior offense of conspiracy. She is currently in prison, entered a plea on February 5, 2015, and her sentencing day is tentatively on May 7, 2015. Her response was that she did not even know that she was going to be here today (referring to testifying at court) and was not asking for time off her sentence when talking to the investigator that Mr. Ward hired. Mr. Ward brought up the point that there is talk of a reduction in credits.

David Marshall, the investigator for the Yolo County District Attorney’s Office, was another person testifying. His job is to interview victims, make arrests as needed, and collect evidence. As indicated previously, Caesar Lawson was one of the witnesses in custody. The inmate visitation log for Mr. Lawson was brought up. On April 20, the investigator for Defense Attorney Ward visited Mr. Lawson in the Yolo County Jail. DDA Hayes seemed to have Mr. Marshall testify in order to show proof that some intimidation of Mr. Lawson by the investigator may have occurred and may have played a role in why Mr. Lawson did not want to testify in court when subpoenaed.

The victim was brought to court today to verify both her voice and that of Caesar Lawson’s on the 911 tape from July 18, 2013. At one point in the tape, the 911 operator asked where the guy went. The victim replied that she doesn’t know where he (Mr. Pryor) went. Mr. Ward, in cross-examination, asked about nicknames that Caesar Lawson has for the victim. She replied that he calls all the girls something that sounded like “Slee,” and only called her “baby” that one time (on the 911 tape, apparently). She mentioned something about Jocelyn [Wilson] being downstairs at that moment.

The defendant, Mr. Pryor, voluntarily chose not to testify and the defense had no evidence to present.

About The Author

The Vanguard Court Watch operates in Yolo, Sacramento and Sacramento Counties with a mission to monitor and report on court cases. Anyone interested in interning at the Courthouse or volunteering to monitor cases should contact the Vanguard at info(at)davisvanguard(dot)org - please email info(at)davisvanguard(dot)org if you find inaccuracies in this report.

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