by Antoinnette Borbon
The definition of presumption took center stage Wednesday afternoon as Deputy Public Defender Dan Hutchinson explained to jurors how, as individuals, we can often perceive things differently and/or presume something to be true or false by our own perceptions.
On August 28, Elijah Jackson ran across four lanes of the highway in order to get away from authorities after he was thought to be suspicious as he searched for cans/bottles to recycle in the Dunnigan area.
Jackson was on probation and failed to check in with his probation officer, resulting in an active warrant for his arrest.
After a chase and capture of Mr. Jackson, officers pinning him to the ground, he was placed in handcuffs that were put on incorrectly. Jackson began screaming. Officers claimed they could not quite understand what he was saying, continuing to hold him down.
It was moments later when another officer arrived on the scene, and Jackson appeared in her eyes to be an out-of-control suspect. Yolo County Sheriff’s Deputy Robin Gonzalez testified to helping the other officers gain control by placing a figure-four leg lock on Mr. Jackson.
However, according to the defendant, he began screaming from the pain he felt as the handcuffs were improperly placed, as well as further pain from the leg hold. Mr. Jackson seemingly became more out of control. But ” it was a reaction to his pain,” asserted the defense.
“Why are we here, Ladies and Gentlemen?” Mr. Hutchinson asked. “We’re here because of a law enforcement officer more concerned about protecting herself, not her fellow officers and not the defendant as she claimed, and you can see that in the video, she made a stupid decision to do the leg lock and it caused her injury which resulted in charges.”
He went on to say, “And we are here because she created a false narrative.”
In his thought-provoking closing, Mr. Hutchinson not only focused on the car-cam videos shown during trial but implied that “through the eyes of an objective viewer, one cannot assume things to have happened in the way Officer Gonzalez wrote in her narrative. She lied!”
Speculating that Deputy Gonzalez lied on the stand to protect herself from her superiors, Hutchinson stated that she “had sued her boss prior to the incident, her case was dismissed and I don’t think she wanted any more problems so she created a false narrative to protect herself.”
During the arrest, Deputy Gonzalez sustained a broken finger and has been taken off patrol duty due to her injury. According to Deputy District Attorney Michael Vroman, “that injury meets the element of serious bodily injury,”
The prosecution contends that “the defendant acted willfully, he knew what he was doing as he kicked, pushed and yelled obscenities at officers, he ran because he didn’t want to go to jail. He could have stopped his actions but he didn’t, he was in control.”
However, to the defense, nothing was willful, rather the defendant was in so much pain that he acted out of mere reaction to his pain.
Hutchinson’s argument repeatedly went back to the point of a false narrative written by Deputy Gonzalez and the presumption of what jurors may see and believe from viewing the videotapes.
He explains, “Presumption is only a call on the field, but it is only a presumption.”
Hutchinson told jurors, “She told fellow officers [this narrative], she had to create a narrative to protect herself from her superiors, this false narrative led to charges.”
“But thank goodness for those videos, it illuminates doubt on what she said happened,” Hutchinson added.
Pointing out the contradicting testimony among officers in this case, Hutchinson said that “truth can depend on our own point of view, maybe putting the defendant in a leg lock was reasonable to Ms. Gonzalez, but to an objective view, it wasn’t.”
Deputy Gonzalez testified that Jackson kicked and pushed with his legs, resulting in the broken finger she sustained during the incident. Her previous statement said only that her finger had been jammed as she assisted in gaining control of Mr. Jackson.
Quoting a scene from Star Wars, Hutchinson reiterated the focus of presumption and what we believe as our own truth even though to an outsider it may look completely different.
“As the song by Meatloaf goes, two out of three isn’t bad, but one element met out of seven to convict on charges is ridiculous,” said Hutchinson regarding the elements needed to be met in a charge.
In his conclusion he explained to jurors that if there is a presumption of innocence and lack of evidence proving guilt, it raises enough reasonable doubt and they must weigh on the side of a “not guilty verdict.”
“We all make stupid decisions and that is what Mr. Jackson did when he chose to run but he did not willfully intend to hurt anyone,” added Hutchinson.
“But he hasn’t had an easy life, he’s made mistakes just as we all have, but he is not guilty of a felony injury charge, only misdemeanor evading an officer,” Hutchinson concluded.
Furthermore, defense counsel pointed out in this case that not all cops are honest in their report writing. But he explained to jurors that at least two of the officers were acting lawfully, actually patting the defendant on his shoulders in an effort to calm him down, to loosen the restraints in order to stop his pain. Hutchinson said it was as if CHP Sergeant Brent Shultz was trying to tell Jackson that everything is going to be okay.
Hutchinson added, “Officers Fielding and Shultz were acting lawfully, reasonably and you will see that in the videos.”
Their efforts were thwarted, according to the defense, when Deputy Gonzalez made the decision to put the legs of the defendant in a figure-four leg lock and then complete a false narrative in an effort to avoid more problems from her superiors.
But the defense asserted, “Thank goodness for the videos,” saying that at least it gives jurors a chance to make their own assessments of what happened that day.
This case raises substantial reasonable doubt and Mr. Hutchinson said that the jurors must consider the lies told by Deputy Gonzalez, speculating that her written report is at least questionable.