By Crescenzo Vellucci
Vanguard Sacramento Bureau
STOCKTON, Ca – The 12-person jury now deliberating in a San Joaquin County Superior Court civil rights lawsuit here against Stockton police officers Robert Johnson and Robert Wong – accused of beating Joseph Green, a 16-year-old Black teen in 2011 – spent only a few hours Tuesday before telling the court that they believed Green didn’t do what the officers claimed he did.
Officer Johnson testified he had to arrest Green because he was obstructing business at the California Stop gas station and convenience store as he was trying to buy “Gummy Bear” candy for his four-year old sister while their mother pumped $60 worth of gas outside.
Johnson said Green wouldn’t leave the store after the clerk told him to believe. The clerk, in an interview, said he did not tell Green to leave, while Johnson insisted he did.
Johnson – in plain clothes and behind Green in line – said he grabbed Green as he was leaving, pulled him into the store, and punched him at least two times on the ground. Green lost both his front teeth and had to be hospitalized. Criminal charges were never filed against Green.
The jury Tuesday morning gutted the officers’ defense when the “Special Verdict Form” was read in open court, apparently choosing not to believe the officers’ version of events, which were captured on two video feeds.
The jury unanimously agreed 12-0 that Green did not “intentionally interfere with the business of the California Stop,” 10-2 that Green did not do so by “obstructing or intimidating those attempting to carry on business at the California Stop or its customers” and 11-1 that that he did not “refuse to leave the California Stop after being requested to leave by the owner, owner’s agent or by a peace officer acting at the request of the owner or owner’s agent.”
The votes suggest a big majority of the jury did not believe officers Johnson and Wong.
“I think the jury came to the right conclusion on the first phase with respect to the first three questions. I think it also provides a strong indication of how they are ultimately going to decide the case,” said Charles “Tony” Piccuta of the Piccuta Law Group, LLP.
The jury now goes back to make the ultimate decision of guilt or innocence of Johnson and Wong involving a series of claims, including assault/battery, excessive force, false arrests, negligence, retaliation and violations of Green’s federal civil rights.
Piccuta said a decision could come as early as Wednesday
The trial lasted nearly two weeks, when choosing a jury delayed the trial. A high number of potential jurors had to be excused after they said they either heard about, or experienced bad treatment by Stockton police.
Before it was over, one potential juror was dismissed after sobbing uncontrollably, another juror said she was “happy I don’t live in this town” (Stockton) and another juror was excused after he thought the case should have settled. And blamed the plaintiff, Green. The potential juror’s wife was in law enforcement.
In the end, the 12-person jury has one Black juror and three Latinos of the empaneled five women, seven men.