My turn for editorial comment on the trial, which occupies two other installments on Yahoo News, Associated Content. This has to be done before a verdict is reached, so that I am not influenced by same.
I take my role as the Fourteenth Juror seriously, the press, as only the media can have influence on lawsuits in the future, and fair treatment for both the police and those lives that they touch daily. I will be unbiased, yet brutally true.
My analysis will have four sections, called The Players, The Facts, My Judgements, and The Future. THE PLAYERS:
Plaintiff lawyers, suing the City of San Diego and its police force for unnecessary roughness, leading to personal injury of their clients (mental and physical) and violation of their Civil Rights under Free Speech and Freedom of Religion are Scott Dreher, and Matt Miller. Dreher is a famous ACLU lawyer, the only one to have the guts to sue San Diego over its “Illegal Lodging” ordinance that made being homeless a crime. He won in Federal Court, after moving the case to San Francisco.
Dreher looks young, clean-cut, the nice boy down the block who went to law school and is now David, fighting Goliath. Champion of ordinary people being mistreated by their own government.
His partner, Matt Miller, darker in complexion and heavier in build, asks the tough “bulldog” questions, the nasty ones that make us all sometimes dislike lawyers. He does not come off as a shark, but maybe a pit bull, and does not get liked by the jury for that reason, but permits Dreher to retain his “innocent warrior for the people” mantle. The rare treat in this trial is that Miller was not available to cross examine the last witness, Pelegrino, police procedure expert for San Diego. Dreher had to assume the bulldog role and shredded his testimony completely, largely impeaching him as a witness. Normally, Miller does the rough stuff.
On the other side, the defense attorneys, headed by Riley for the San Diego City Attorney’s Office, were the usual lawyers that government uses. Good, and way better than their pay would merit, but working for governments has its perks too. I once worked for the City of Los Angeles and got to borrow a city swimming pool to hold a private adult party.
Religion, the retirement job of David Ross, pays even less, but also has its perks. Ross, the primary Plaintiff, gets beaten up periodically as he helps to care for poor people. He does, however, get a huge amount of love and respect. His biggest problem is that his life as a car dealer has given him that “auto salesman” personality, which many find offensive. He comes off as phony, although everyone respects his missionary work.
Once San Diego had laws against giving out food or water to starving and thirsty people, claiming that it ties up traffic, plus does not encourage those people to leave San Diego permanently. Some such laws are still on the books, causing a few people to call its government “Gestapo”, as in Hitler. Traffic flow seems to be more important than people starving to death.
Another Plaintiff, Marvin Britton, is a homeless veteran who helped keep peace and order for the Homeless Assembly area, the Neal Good Center in downtown San Diego. Neal Good is sort of a university Student Union Building or a prison day room. Someplace to be besides on the sidewalk, being photographed by tourists.
The third Plaintiff, Myron Hill, currently in jail for selling cocaine, is the original man that the police slammed against a wall for refusing to get out of the street until he got his bottle of drinking water from Ross. And, they gave him only 5 seconds to comply, plus the contact with him was by the Cover Officer, and not the Contact Officer, a violation of nationwide police procedure because it often results in injuries to police officers and also bystanders.
The primary Defendant, accused of using too much force as a cop, is Officer McLaughlin, of the San Diego Police, accused of having a short fuse that day. I can sympathize with him, but it also looks like he brought this upon himself. A “tough cop” in a world that needs a lot of tough cops, he would be perfect for SWAT, or hostage negotiations, or as a bodyguard for a city official. Whoever assigned him as a beat cop is a complete idiot. And, whoever assigned him to teach other officers needs to be fired.
I do not think he should be punished, but the people in the previous two sentences do need to be. He needs to be assigned to appropriate work, is all. I have had run-ins with McLaughlin personally, minor, and he has a strong personality and reputation as being mean as a cop. I can envision him in a business suit, standing in the City Council Chambers, protecting them.
The judge appeared to be standard fare, objective and fair. Lots of care not to inconvenience the jury, by taking up too much of their time in waiting around. Commendable. Witnesses are part of the facts, and are covered in this next section. THE FACTS:
Everyone has a similar story, with a few red herrings (things introduced to throw off the scent, originally referring to hunting dogs). Police drove up quickly to the Homeless Reserve, the Neal Good Center in downtown San Diego. They parked behind missionary David Ross as he handed out bottled water to thirsty people, not putting on their flashing blue lights when parking their squad car, and meanly barked an order at Myron Hill to get out of the street.
Hill refused, saying he needed his bottle of water first, so almost immediately, Officer McLaughlin slammed his head against a brick wall. His partner, Officer Stephens, fresh out of the police academy and being trained by McLaughlin, testified that McLaughlin used too much force. As a police officer himself, testifying against his training officer and his current employer, the San Diego PD, he is being courageous in admitting the truth.
The wall-slamming agitated people across the street who were watching from the Center, but not a huge amount, until missionary Ross objected verbally to mistreatment by police, and was then himself knocked to the ground by Officer McLaughlin, using a military maneuver.
In an attempt to protect Ross, Marvin Britton, a huge ex-Military Policeman, went out of the compount to protect Ross, and the gates were locked, locking hundreds of people in, to prevent rioting. There were hundreds of witnesses to all this, but very few were called by either side. Despite his size, Officer McLaughlin was able to push bouncer Britton away 3 times, and then knock the big man off balance, banging him into a car.
Police backup arrived, consisting of 12 officers and 2 paramedics, secured the area, and took the 3 Plaintiffs into custody, beginning a police Internal Affairs investigation against McLaughlin. The men were all later released, and all charges were dropped. They complain of physical and mental injuries, plus being deprived of their Civil Rights under Free Speech, that is, the right to verbally complain to police about brutal action taken unnecessarily.
David Ross in his testimony comes off as fake, even though he is telling the truth, which is his legacy from a life as a car salesman. Nobody believes him, even though he never lies. That is his personality, and causes him endless difficulties. Witnesses Harry Miller and plumber Larry Johnson, neither of whom are homeless, give believable accounts. Ronald Seno, the tennis pro, is also believable but needs to be taken with a grain of salt, as he works as tennis instructor for Mr. Ross. Same to be said for Gerry Limpic (correct spelling this time), the parner of Ross.
Officer McLaughlin himself, the accused, is largely believable, but also shows his “tough cop” biases. Nobody demands that cops be super-human. His partner, Brian Stephens, is the most believable of all. The police captains and chief in the courtoom add nothing to the trial, except that they shook hands with Ross, in an attempt to prove that his fear of police is minimal. Of course, top-ranking cops in a courtoom is not the same thing as patrolmen on the street.
Therapist Dana Terrell is believable, but is emotionally connected to Ross as a result of being his counselor. She is not also legally considered an expert. Tapes of Myron Hill, played in reverse order, probably confused the jury and prejudiced them against him. Roger Clark, police procedure expert for Ross, is also one of the most believable witnesses, and blames every bit of what happened not only on police, but on San Diego Police procedures. Given that McLaughlin was instructing another officer, I agree.
Marvin Britton, the MP trying to rescue Ross, I do not find believable. Heroic, yes. I also have problems with the tesimony of Dr. Greenhill, the orthopedic surgeon, who is doing his job as an expert witness, coming as close to telling a lie as possible without actually doing so. Dr. Addero, the psychiatrist, I find as unbelievable as Britton. The last witness, Pellegrino, I find the least believable at all, especially as he only examined that evidence which the City decided to give him, supporting their case.
Expert witnesses accept a lot of money in return for trial testimony. I was one in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, where I did detective work in the 1970s. I was always on the side of the police, like Tom Musick in this trial, and was considered a police officer myself, independent. In reality, I was an outside contractor, doing police investigative work, regarding burglaries.
As an expert witness, I stretched the truth as best I could, without telling any direct lies. I also made sure I never volunteered key information which would hurt my client’s case. When you look at expert witness testimony, the portion of questioning by the friendly attorney is not as important as cross-examination by the unfriendly one. A good lawyer asks me questions that force me to reveal my client’s secrets.
CONTINUED WITH THE ORIGINAL UNCENSORED VERSION.
So, it is the cross-examination by oppositng attorneys that brings out the “meat” in a trial. Dreher completely impeached police expert for the defense Pellegrino. Britton impeached himself. The City lawyers, in switching the order of videotapes of Hill, and prominently displaying his “gangster” photo, not representative of him at the time of the incident, plus using derogatory terminology in reference to the homeless, need to be reprimanded by the State Bar.
They showed themselves to be scoundrels, the sort of lawyers that give all lawyers a bad name. Shrewd, cunning, the kind of people we all want working for us in a courtroom. Yes, we are all part of the lawyer and law problem. We seek out sharks to bite for us.
MY JUDGEMENTS: Hill has the biggest claim, if he went from missionary to dope dealer as a result. There is no proof as to the cause, however. (Quite probably, the City had something to do with same, to help its case!) Therapist Dana Terrell is more believable than Dr. Addario, the psychiatrist, because Terrell saw Ross both before and after the incident. So, Ross did suffer some physical and mental damage, plus loss of his work, inconvenience, and so on. Britton played Good Samaritan and got injured for it. Officer McLaughlin used very poor police tactics, plus excessive force, and deprived Defendants of their Civil Rights to Free Speech and Freedom of Religion.
Judgement is for the Plaintiffs, the City of San Diego being liable for negligence in the assignment of Officer McLaughlin to teaching work, knowing he’s a short fuse. He decided to show his trainee how to “kick some ass”, nearly causing a riot. He gets his Ph.D. in Stupidity.
The City should pay Ross $250,000, Hill $100,000, and Britton $75,000, plus discipline and reprimand whoever assigned Officer McLaughlin to patrol work, plus FIRE whoever made him a training officer. Legal fees of 33% awarded in addition to the above. $425,000 + 33% = $565,250. The fourteenth juror has spoken.
What does the twelve-member jury have to say? And, what about the thirteenth juror, the judge? I don’t care. You can learn about that in the conventional rigged news media that takes care to cover up the truth. I covered what they did not. There is also a fifteenth juror, you, the public. Your comments are solicited.
THE FUTURE: The San Diego Police and the homeless never got along very well the past 40 years, ever since many got back from Vietnam and had nowhere to go except the sidewalks. President Reagan tried to make the homeless look like a bunch of mentally ill derelicts by closing the mental hospitals 4 years later, adding real lunatics to the hard-working mentally-stable Vietnam veterans. The news media made sure to select one of the nut-cases as its “typical homeless person” for on-air accounts, too.
The George W. Bush Great Economic Depression, worst depression in US history, made matters worse, and now less than one-third of all homeless in San Diego have any type of drug, alcohol, or mental problem. Their problem is finding a job, any job. And, if they find a job, will it pay the extreme amount of money necessary to pay rent?
I do expect that in the future, the City of San Diego, slow to react and still living in the 1950s (Welcome to Mayberry) will jump the gap and at least be only 20 years behind the rest of the nation, not 60 years. The homeless, too, are beginning to understand how tough a problem the City has, plus how difficult it is to be a cop.
I see some mutual respect, and it all began here. Kudos to Scott Dreher for having the guts to file this lawsuit. Everyone is better off as a result, especially the citizens of San Diego. Your comments are welcome, you the public being the 15th juror.