Jury Hangs in Paul Schene’s Assault Trial

The jury considering the assault charges against Paul Schene announced Friday that they were deadlocked, and a mistrial was declared and the jury released. Paul Schene, was a King County deputy sheriff, and was charged with 4th Degree Assault  for allegedly assaulting Malika Calhoun in a video widely distributed online.  See prior post.  The jury voted 11-1 to convict.

The prosecutor’s office announced that they would be retrying the case.  I know the customary practice in misdemeanor cases in King County is to not retry misdemeanor hung juries.  This case doesn’t seem to be the average misdemeanor.  The strategy of Schene’s criminal defense attorney, Peter Offenbecher, was to break the video down frame by frame and have the accused officer explain every action he took in terms of his police training.  As reported in a Seattle-Times article:

On the witness stand Tuesday, Schene said he used standard techniques taught at the police academy to control Calhoun.  He said he first kicked her to spin her around, grabbed her hair to control her, shoved her against a wall in a failed attempt to handcuff her and forced her to the ground by her hair to apply handcuffs.  He said he punched Calhoun twice in the left shoulder while she was on the ground because she was resisting him and his partner, who was also trying to handcuff her.  … Standing before a TV monitor using a pointer, Schene explained his actions as jurors watched freeze-framed video of the encounter.

You tend to see a frame by frame analysis of the video clips in question when officers are charged with assault based on video.

Police Practices Expert Charles L Duke testified for the defense when the LAPD beat Rodney King

In the prosecution of the LAPD officers who beat Rodney King, the defense used police practices expert Charles Duke.  He did a frame-by-frame analysis of the videotape for the jury to support the contention that reasonable force was used.   He testified that all 56 baton swings were justified in his expert opinion under police protocols.   See related article from 1993.  In the Rodney King case the prosecutor and the defense both used expert witnesses in police procedure.  The prosecutor’s expert Sgt. Mark Konta testified that the first baton blows may have been justified but not the remaining blows.

In the case of Paul Schene’s criminal charges, it doesn’t appear from the news coverage that either the prosecutor or the defense lawyer called any use of force experts to testify.  It would be interesting to see what Charles Duke would say about this video footage of Paul Schene and Malika Calhoun.

When the police beat Rodney King and the footage was broadcast on CNN people were shocked.  I was in college at the time.   I don’t remember officers being caught on tape in such a manner prior to that.  Now, these sort of matters make the news all the time.  A person could spend all day on youtube looking at such incidents.

What is it like for the prosecutors who handle the cases against the cops?  Is there resentment among the other officers that typically work with the prosecutor?  What pressure is put on them?  I may blog about this subject in the future.

What thoughts do have on this case?

(By Steve Graham, Defense Attorney)

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Steve Graham is a criminal defense lawyer, and he splits his time between Spokane and Seattle, Washington. Visit his website by clicking: www.grahamdefense.com
Law Office of Steve Graham
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