Jury Deadlocked 9-3 for Acquittal of Deputies in Federal Criminal Trial

Posted on Tuesday, September 01, 2015 at 12:00AM

Silver, Hadden, Silver & Levine

Stone Busailah, LLP

On June 23, a mistrial was declared in federal district court in Los Angeles when a jury of 10 women and two men announced that it was hopelessly deadlocked in the trial of two Santa Barbara County custody deputies. The tally was 9-3 in favor of acquitting both Christopher Johnson and Robert Kirsch, who were charged with the use of excessive force in 2013 in the restraint of a pretrial detainee who was subsequently convicted of rape and murder. Johnson was additionally charged with filing a false and/or misleading report, regarding which the jury was also hung 9-3 in Johnson’s favor.

The incident giving rise to the charged conduct occurred in the Santa Barbara County Jail where, during the movement of the handcuffed inmate, a brief altercation ensued. The inmate was taken to the floor and quickly subdued without any significant sign of injury.

The incident was captured on video, albeit of poor quality and shot from a distance that tended to warp the perspective of the viewer. The government claimed that the video, which did not show all of the inmate’s movements, told a tale of abuse. Conversely, the defense maintained that the government completely ignored evidence on the video that showed that the deputies had acted reasonably, and that the government had abysmally failed to meet its burden of proof on any of the charges. Three-quarters of the jury found the defense’s arguments persuasive, but the government still intends to retry the case in the fall.

Deputy Johnson was represented by Mike Stone, Muna Busailah and Robert Rabe of Stone Busailah, while Bill Hadden and Ken Yuwiler of Silver, Hadden, Silver & Levine represented Deputy Kirsch. The defense was provided the unflagging support of LDF, which included the invaluable assistance of video experts Parris Ward and David Notowitz, jury expert Jan Spaeth, use-of-force and tactics expert Don Cameron, and investigator Hank Lobo.

To be continued …

About the Authors

Bill Hadden joined what is now Silver, Hadden, Silver & Levine in 1982 and became a partner in 1986. A graduate of Loyola Law School, Hadden has primarily handled the firm’s high-profile criminal and administrative cases for over a quarter-century. Hadden has also represented countless public safety members in all phases of litigation and frequently lectures and writes about prominent legal issues pertaining to law enforcement.

Michael P. Stone is the founding partner and principal shareholder of Stone Busailah, LLP. He has practiced almost exclusively in police law and litigation for 35 years, following 13 years as a police officer, supervisor and police attorney. 

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