LOS ANGELES (CN) – A police expert testified at the trial over the violent break-up of a May Day rally that the police charge through a group of reporters “was no legitimate use of force.”
As a witness called by lawyers for a FOX TV camerawoman, Lou Reiter said one of the fundamental tasks of law enforcement is to protect people’s civil rights. Plaintiff’s lawyer Browne Greene asked Reiter whether, based on his review of the evidence, the use of force by the policemen at the rally was reasonable.
“No, the force used was unreasonable,” Reiter said.
Greene further asked whether it was true, as Los Angeles Police Department officer Joseph Clay’s claimed, that camerawoman Patricia Ballaz and reporter Christina Gonzalez were non-compliant and interfered with the police.
Reiter answered that while it was Clay’s job to move them, “There was no hindering of the police officers at all.”
After showing the May Day rally video clip Greene asked, “From what you can see, who is being compromised here, Officer Clay?”
“From what I see here,” said the expert, “Ms. Gonzalez and Patti Ballaz’s safety is compromised here. In my opinion, it was totally unreasonable.”
When Greene asked if Gonzalez, Ballaz, or any other media reporters used or looked like they were using force against the police officers, Reiter answered that they seemed to be doing their job of reporting and filming.
“The force used against Ms. Ballaz and Ms. Gonzalez was unreasonable,” said Reier, adding, “I think it was wrong — it was more than troubling.”
On cross-examination, Todd Hayward from the City Attorney’s office asked if the media is supposed to be at a police command center, not at a civil disturbance. Reiter agreed. But this was simply a demonstration in the park.
The husband of TV reporter Christina Gonzalez also took the stand. The husband, Jim Leen, is a retired policeman.
They married three days after the May Day fracas. He was questioned by Keith Griffin with Giraridi & Keese, the firm representing Gonzalez.
Griffin asked the husband how life had changed for Gonzalez after she was hit and violently rousted from the park by the police.
He answered that she became emotionally unstable and was not able to sleep. At one point, Leen said she told him, “There’s a cop out there watching the house.”
“I couldn’t believe how frightened she was,” Leen said.
City attorney Jessica Brown asked Leen if Gonzalez frequently went horseback riding. Leen answered that she did.
“She rode a horse since May 2007?” Brown asked.
“I don’t know. I don’t remember,” Leen answered.
Video clips show both Gonzalez and FOX camerawoman Patricia Ballaz as they were hit and prodded by policemen wielding batons.
After cross-examining Gonzalez’ husband, the lawyer for the city called an expert witness to challenge evidence from Ballaz’ lawyers, suggesting that after the May Day violence, she was fit only to do sedentary jobs such as customer service representative.
City lawyer Hayward called rehabilitation counselor Janice Wexler as an expert witness who said that considering Ballaz’s shy personality, the job of customer service representative is too confrontational. Rather, Wexler thought a video editing job would be a great match.
“This is a perfect transition for her,” said the city’s expert.
Robert Jarchi from Greene Broillet & Wheeler asked the witness on cross-examination whether she considered Ballaz’s age in entering the video editing career after leaving a job as 31-year career as a camerawoman.
“And it’s your testimony that age would be a challenge, is that correct?” Jarchi asked.
“It would be a challenge for anyone,” Wexler answered.
Jarchi also asked if Wexler considered the physical rigor of video editing — espcially in regards to her hand. She replied that this job would not require her to use her hands.
For the city, lawyer Jessica Brown called the last witness of the day, Frederic Nicola.
Nicola is a doctor who specializes in orthopaedic surgery. He testified that Gonzalez’a neck already had a pre-existent traumatic neck injury which worsened after the May Day incident. He said that looking at x-rays of Gonzalez looked the same before and after the May 1 violence.
“To me, it looks the same,” Nicola said.
As the questioning dragged on, Judge William Highberger took a dig at Jarchi for his use of double-negatives in his questions, suggesting with s bit of sarcasm that one of first things law students learn is to ask questions in double negatives.