Assault Trial Focuses on Fight or Flight Response

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By Hannah Grayson

On Monday morning, Judge Harry Dorfman presided over an assault trial in Department 19. A total of four witnesses were called to the stand throughout the day, including a psychotherapist as an expert.

The prosecution, Assistant District Attorney Kourtney Bell, brought in San Francisco Police Department Officer Darrell Auyoung as a witness. In his testimony, Officer Auyoung recalled reporting to a missing persons report on the day of the incident in which he talked with the woman who filed it. Later that day, the officer met with her again as she had apparently been the victim of a battery.

The defendant allegedly hit the victim’s car with her own on December 3 of last year. The defendant and two others in her car are accused of banging on the other car and dragging the victim out of the vehicle. The victim then drew a knife and stabbed the defendant as a fight ensued.

The people then brought back a sergeant from the SFPD to finish his testimony. The defense played bodycam footage of a witness being brought into the station for a statement after the incident. This witness had observed the fight and took a video of it. The sergeant had a difficult time recalling much of the details as much time had passed since the time of the footage.

Though he was not the officer that took the statement from the witness, he oversaw much of what happened. It was then revealed that though it is protocol to separate witnesses for statements, the victim and the witness had given statements within earshot of each other as there is apparently only one statement room in the station. The defense seemed to allude to the possibility of the two concocting a story against the defendant. The sergeant did not believe this was the case as he testified that he did not see the two interact at all.

After the prosecution rested, the defense brought in its first witness. The witness was an extended family member of the defendant and they had developed a closer relationship in recent years. On the day of the fight, the witness had gotten word that the defendant had gone to the emergency room. She then met with her and offered to take her to the police station after hearing of her stab wound.

The next witness from the defense was an expert, Dr. Laeeq Evered. Dr. Evered is a psychotherapist that focuses on the influence of the brain on behavior and specifically how trauma affects the brain.
The defense focused their questioning on the fight flight freeze response. This response is triggered by a subjective fear of being seriously harmed. He testified that memory and sense of time can be impacted by this response.

In using the fight in question as a hypothetical, Dr. Evered agreed that fight is a reasonable fear response when a threat is still ongoing. The threat being discussed is the knife still being brandished at the defendant as she began to fight back.

In the cross examination, ADA Bell begins by asking if Dr. Evered had examined or tested the defendant in person. Dr. Evered had not.

Bell also questioned whether malingering was potentially involved in which someone pretends for personal gain. This cannot be determined without extensive tests, according to Dr. Evered.

Dr. Evered did admit that it would not make sense for the fear response to be activated when seeing someone in their car while driving down the street. They would not be seen as a threat from that distance allowing someone to hit them in a fight response.

The defense asked if the acts of busting the windows of the car and yanking jewelry off the defendant were reasonable acts to neutralize the threat. Dr. Evered said that while it is not necessary to neutralize the threat, acts of aggression can continue to occur as someone is coming down from their fight response to the fear.

It was also difficult to tell if the threat continued as the video footage was of poor quality and from a distance. It is hard to tell where the knife is at any point in the video.

Dr. Evered’s testimony concluded and thus, the day of trial ended. It will continue with further witnesses from the defense on Tuesday morning.


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About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

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