LOS ANGELES (CN) – While her mother sat crying in the back of the courtroom, a TV camerawoman testified about the violent break-up of a demonstration over immigration policy, saying, “The LAPD broke my body, broke my spirit, and broke my heart.”
As a camerawoman for Fox TV, Patricia Ballaz has worked with policemen to report news from crime scenes and rallies. Ballaz said she had once been given a ride in a police car to film a crime scene, almost as through she were in a TV drama. She testified on Wednesday that the police treated her professionally and respectfully and that the police officers had been there to protect her.
Exemplifying the often-close relationship between policemen and the TV reporters who interview them, she said she had received an award from LAPD, thanking her for “outstanding cooperation and contribution.”
Ballaz was examined by a well-known Los Angeles trial lawyer, Browne Greene.
He asked if she had seen any similar police violence before the May Day rally, Ballaz answered, “Never in my 30 years have I ever seen anything like that.”
She told her lawyer that she did not want him to show the video of what happened on that day because it’s a painful reminder of the changes that her life undertook on that day.
“What happened that day ruined my life,” Ballaz said.
The jury listened intently as Ballaz testified and the lawyers defending the police and the City of Los Angeles did not interrupt. It was left to the judge presiding over the trial to control Greene’s tendency to lead his witnesses.
“The whole thing was leading Mr. Greene,” said Judge William Highberger at one point. “I was waiting for the defendants to make an objection.”
Another member of the press who was at the rally, KCAL reporter Mark Coogan, also testified.
In MacArthur Park, said Coogan, he saw SWAT trucks and some people “taunting the line of police officers.” The radio reporter said he knows camerawoman Ballaz and Fox TV Reporter Christina Gonzalez, and he was with them reporting on the demonstration.
When Greene asked if he heard any dispersal order from the police, Coogan said that he didn’t hear anything about a dispersal order. There were mainly news media in the park and not many demonstrators, Coogan said. The police force simply marched into a group of media reporters.
“I was very surprised because I have never seen anything like this at all,” Coogan said.
Coogan said that he has never seen Ballaz or Gonzalez doing anything to provoke police violence.
Brown asked Coogan if he can tell her what he did hear in the park. Coogan responded that he only heard “something about unlawful assembly from the helicopter.”
Moving to damages, Peter Formuzis, an economist hired by the plaintiff firm Greene Broillet & Wheeler, told the jury how much future earnings Ballaz would lose — the difference between the money she could have made as a camerawoman and what she will probably make as a customer service representative, the job for which she is now fit.
Ballaz has not worked since the day of the demonstration on May 1, 2007.
When Robert Jarchi from Greene Broillet asked him how much money Ballaz is going to lose, Formuzis answered that she would lose about $1.4 million — considering the upward trend of her salary and assuming that she would work for another 13 to 14 years. Moreover, Formuzis said that Ballaz’s past medical expenses are $125,776 and future medical expenses would probably cost about $513,208.
If she needs to have more surgery, the potential medical expenses would probably cost more.
Jarchi asked if the economist’s estimate included amounts tied life conditions — such as change in her ability to interact socially and her emotional stability, Jarchi asked.
Formuzis answered no.
Keith Griffin, who is with Girardi & Keese and represents Fox TV reporter Christina Gonzalez, asked Formuzis how much income Gonzalez lost when she missed work and how much the medical bill come up to sine the May Day incident.
Formuzis answered that the medical bills total to about $203,141.72 and she lost about $79,000.
During cross-examination, Todd Hayward with the City Attorney’s office, asked Formuzis if he had previously calculated economic loss for people with media jobs. Formuzis that he had not.
“And you can’t rule out that there are other economists who specialize in this area, correct?” Hayward asked.
“Yes,” Formuzis answered.
Talking about the incomes lost and past and future medical expenses, Hayward asked, “That was based on your blind assumptions that she had incurred all those medical bills …[and] had lost her wages due to something that happened on May 1, correct?”
Further, Hayward pointed out that the income lost and medical expense calculations Formuzis made were based on the what Ballaz earned from January to April 2007. You decided that the four month prior to May 1 was the best indicator to calculate loss of earnings and medical expenses, correct? Hayward asked. Formuzis agreed.
“Did Ms. Hyland talk about what medication Ms. Ballaz need in the future?” Hayward asked.
“No,” Formuzis answered.
The second witness of the day, Ballaz’s psychiatrist Lester Zackler
Because of Ballaz’s history of depression, Zackler said that she is more prone to develop post-traumatic stress disorder. When Greene asked her to explain how the May Day incident affected Ballaz, Zackler said, “Her career was looking through one side of the lens … you’re separate from it. Suddenly, she was now a participant of it … she was now a victim herself.”
“She’ll need medical management for the rest of her life,” Zackler testified.
Representing LAPD and city of Los Angeles, Jessica Brown asked if Zackler’s diagnosis is based on an interview with Ballaz.
“You didn’t review any medical records, correct?” Brown asked.
“Correct,” Zackler answered.
Brown further asked that Ballaz may have gave him more emotional symptoms and exaggerated her conditions rather than objectively telling him her problems.
Again, Zackler agreed.
Going back to the fact that he did not review any of Ballaz’s medical record, Brown asked that it was possible for Ballaz to have had post-traumatic stress disorder before May 1.
“Yes,” Zackler agreed.
During the trial Gonzalez sat next to Ballaz’s mother, comforting her. Ballaz’s friend also sat in the audience seat, taking notes and occassionally nodding her head when the witness explained the severity of Ballaz and Gonzalez’s conditions. The plaintiff side was unable to finish their direct examination and will finish it on Thursday.
Part of Ballaz’ damage, as Greene suggested through his questioning, was the loss of her job as a camerawoman. “I loved doing work,” she said. “I got to be part of a history.”