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Police Force at Issue in San Diego Jury Trial

Police Accusation against Citizen Used to Justify a Choke-Out Beat-Down
A San Diego jury is deliberating charges that an arrestee who was choked unconscious and beaten with a metal baton interfered with a police investigation.

San Diego, CA (PRWEB) June 10, 2005 -- Chris Neisen, who is on trial for a misdemeanor accusation of interfering with a police investigation, has put the use of police force at issue in a jury trial in the Superior Court of California, County of San Diego, Central Branch. The trial began on Thursday June 2, 2005.

The jury is presently deliberating. The trial took much longer than an average misdemeanor trial due to the polices use of an ASP baton and the application of a carotid artery hold, or choke-out, while apprehending a non-violent, non-suspect on private property.

The exact details of what took place are currently being litigated in court. But, the basic facts are as follows. At or around 10:30 am on July 10, 2004, in the community of North Park, four San Diego police officers entered private property without an arrest or search warrant and began to ask Neisen questions.

Neisen, who was not the subject of the investigation, responded with questions of his own, specifically, what the police wanted and why they were on the property. After further interaction, the police decided to use force. They beat Neisen with an ASP expandable tactical baton and placed him in a carotid artery choke hold.

Neisen was rendered unconsciousness while the police officers arms were firmly wrapped around his neck. Although the carotid restraint has proven fatal in as little as thirty-seconds, the police choked-out Neisen for a period upwards of two minutes. While in a subdued state, the police continued to strike Neisen with the ASP until his legs were beat bloody. After being unconscious for an unknown period of time, Neisen awoke at some point after the choke hold was removed. From there he was placed in an ambulance and taken to a nearby hospital for treatment of neck, torso, and leg wounds.

Police use of choke-outs have been the subject of much debate as of late. The U.S. Supreme Court described a carotid hold as when an officer positioned behind a subject places one arm around the subject's neck and holds the wrist of that arm with his other hand. The officer, by using his lower forearm and bicep muscle, applies pressure concentrating on the carotid arteries located on the sides of the subject's neck. The carotid hold is capable of rendering the subject unconscious by diminishing the flow of oxygenated blood to the brain (Los Angeles v. Lyons, 1983).

Many state and federal jurisdictions have held that the carotid artery hold is tantamount to the use of deadly force. A Federal District Court, in a case against the California Highway Patrol (CHP), found that application of the carotid hold constitutes deadly force, and that the CHP's policy of permitting the carotid hold to be applied in circumstances calling for less than deadly force was sufficient to create a great and immediate threat of irreparable injury... (Nava v. City of Dublin, 1997).

Typically, the police may only exert deadly force for the protection of life, for the prevention of serious bodily injury, or in the apprehension of a person who the officer reasonably believes poses a serious danger to the officer or the public. According to the U.S. Department of Justice, the use of force, both deadly and non-deadly, can place officers and civilians at serious risk of physical harm. Thus, it is incumbent upon law enforcement agencies to ensure that officers use force appropriately.

Citizens have a right to enjoy their property without being subjected to police harassment, said Scott. A McMillan, Esq., The McMillan Law Firm. The carotid choke hold should only be used in the most dangerous of situations, not when a law-abiding citizen is peacefully tending his garden on a Saturday morning.

Neisen, a student, lives in San Diego and is trained in conflict resolution and practices vegetarianism.

Kenneth N. Hamilton, Esq., a solo practitioner in La Mesa, Calif., and David J. Lola, Esq., an associate with The McMillan Law Firm, APC, are representing the Defendant on a pro bono basis. Pro bono indicated that the attorney is volunteering legal services at no cost to the client.

We feel important issues involving deadly force applied by police are raised in this case. Furthermore, what this young man endured during his contact with the police clenched our decision to take this case pro bono, said Hamilton.

Because all of the police procedures at issue in this case are important to all San Diego citizens, this misdemeanor trial could end up taking longer than many felony trials, said Lola.


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Steven J. Williams, P.C.
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