By Brinda Kalita, Brandon Blanco and Matthew Torres
Woodland, CA – The jury trial for Mark Meeks began here Tuesday in Yolo County Superior Court with Meeks facing two felony charges of obstructing or resisting an officer, battery on a peace officer, another battery against a cohabiting spouse, and one enhancement charge.
Deputy District Attorney Michelle Serafin told the jury in an opening statement, “Police officers have a job to do. They are employed by the city to enforce the laws of our state. They arrest people who have been accused of committing crimes, they investigate those crimes.”
Regarding the incident which occurred March 27, 2021, DDA Serafin stated Meeks allegedly hit his partner after getting into an argument, and his partner called 911.
Minutes later, both Officer Eads and Officer Souza received a 911 call, regarding a trespassing suspect, 15 minutes from where the victim resided. Officers found Meeks sitting down on someone’s property and asked him if he was Mark Meeks, to which he said, “I’m not going to jail.”
DDA Serafin told the jury how, after Meeks was arrested, he yelled profane comments and resisted the two police officers. More units arrived and took him to the ground—and officers said they had to put a spit mask on Meeks to make him stop spitting at the officer.
When he arrived at the hospital, the DDA claimed Meeks screamed at the nurse and was taken to jail, without getting his blood pressure. During jail, Meeks resisted persistently and five correctional officers were needed to gain control.
DDA Serafin concluded how, through the evidence of the witnesses which includes Meeks’ partner and the two officers at the scene, this would be enough evidence to find Meeks guilty on all four of the charges.
Deputy Public Defender James Bradford represented the defendant, and told the jury that Meeks is presumed innocent until otherwise proved guilty, and they must, as jurors, review the evidence with an open mind, noting humans are susceptible to mistakes.
The prosecution then called Meeks’ partner, who was allegedly assaulted by Meeks.
In the beginning of his testimony, the alleged victim stated that he was punched in the head by Meeks and spat upon, and that Meeks had tried to take away his cell phone.
However, later in the testimony, the victim revealed that he had also punched Meeks and that greatly exaggerated the events that had happened to him when talking to the police.
DDA Serafin then asked the victim about why he chose to lie to the police. In his answer, the victim stated that he lied to the officers that day because he was off his medication, he wanted to get Meeks in trouble, and he wanted the negative attention.
But the victim later realized how much he “loved” Meeks and that while having a breakdown, he realized that he did not want Meeks to get in trouble for assault.
“It’s hard to see someone I love in custody for so long,” the victim revealed when asked about how he felt seeing Meeks in court.
Prior to cross-examination of the victim, DPD Bradford requested the prosecution give him the recorded calls of the victim and the police and any CAD logs they had of the situation.
“The victim has given varying statements about the incident on March 21. I do not want to cross him in the dark,” Bradford added when asked by Judge Timothy Fall about why he chose to request such documents now.
The prosecution was then asked about how long would it take for the defense to receive this information from the police department. The prosecution answered that they would need to ask the officers involved for an accurate estimate.
Judge Fall then allowed for both sides to discuss with the officers about acquiring these pieces of evidence.
The rest of the morning was spent with the attorneys discussing with the officers the exact date they could get this information.
The afternoon began with the cross-examination of the victim, Meeks’ partner. Defense counsel took this time to recount the events that occurred prior to the suspect being arrested.
It was revealed the altercation began over petty comments made by Meeks that angered the victim, leading him to spit and punch Meeks, who returned the punches and slapped the victim. After that the victim began yelling and screaming Meeks left the scene.
This depiction of the events is contrary to earlier direct examination given by the victim when being questioned by the prosecution. DPD Bradford cited other instances of statements made by the victim that he said were also untrue, questioning their credibility.
The next witness was Officer Shayne Souza of the Woodland Police Department, a fairly new officer, at the time of the incident having only been on the job for one year and four months.
DDA Serafin inquired about his time in the academy and on the job, giving the jury a sense of his qualifications regarding probable cause and the use of force when arresting a suspect.
Probable cause is the standard by which officers have the reason to arrest someone, and in his testimony Officer Souza explained different control holds an officer would apply if someone is resisting arrest. If someone is continuing to be combative and help has not arrived, another option would be to use a wrap device.
The device goes around one’s ankles and over their shoulders, preventing them from flailing their arms, legs, and hitting their head on the window. This device was used on Meeks in order to place him in the patrol vehicle.
Officer Souza’s body cam footage was then shown to the jury. The altercation lasted nearly 15 minutes. In the video you can hear officers initially conversing with Meeks about the incident with the victim, until the officer attempts to arrest him. Then you hear Meeks repeatedly yell “Let me go!”
When officers eventually got Meeks into the patrol car, they took him to Woodland Memorial Hospital to get a medical clearance. Officer Souza’s reasoning was “when there’s force used, it’s always best to get them checked out.”
He then shared how usually the suspect would be taken inside to have their vitals checked, but due to the intensity of this interaction it’d be best if the medical professionals met them at the patrol car.
Meeks was left in the patrol car to be examined, and even while restrained was still hostile to the nurse and doctor, said the officer, adding that neither a doctor nor a nurse was able to examine Meeks.
Other body cam footage displayed for the jury showed the attempt to have Meeks medically cleared. Meeks can be heard yelling profanities, and telling staff not to go near him or he’d spit on them.
Officer Souza followed up with the victim about an emergency protective order over the phone, and one was granted.