No Pepper Spray on Nonviolent Protesters
For immediate release: Sept. 22, 2004
Contact Karen Pickett, 510-548-3113
Pepper Spray By Q-Tip Trial Ends in Jury Deadlock
Jury Stops Deliberation 6-2 in Favor of Plaintiffs
The eight jurors in the Pepper Spray by Q-tip trial informed the judge at 3:15 Wednesday afternoon that they were "hopelessly deadlocked" and could not find resolution through further deliberation. After encouraging them to rethink their opinions and meeting privately with the jury foreman, Judge Susan Illston declared a mistrial. It was then that plaintiffs and defendants learned there were six jurors in favor of finding that police had used unconstitutional excessive force against the activists and only two not of that opinion. The plaintiffs are the eight activists who sued Humboldt county Sheriffs' Dept and Eureka Police for subjecting them to direct application of pepper spray into their eyes with Q-tips as they were locked down in sit-in protests.
Some of the jurors spoke with plaintiffs and attorneys in the hallway outside the courtroom, telling them that the two who opposed plaintiffs simply favored the police view in all respects. One juror expressed that she felt what was done to the protesters, particularly the young women, in her view, was "just wrong" and the tactics the police used were "obviously excessive".
Lead counsel Dennis Cunningham said the plaintiffs are ready to go back to trial at the earliest opportunity. "We not going to let go of the issue. We are going to go back to trial as soon as we can. That our claim was clear to the great majority, but rejected by two people who held out means we were close, and that is encouraging. We realize how difficult it is for some people to believe that there is a real need for control over what the police are allowed to do. It is a leap for some people, and a leap they are not comfortable making, if they have no direct experience with police abuse."
"We are really disappointed, of course, he added, but "We're not going to stop pushing the public consciousness about the need for controls over the police. We don't believe sanitized modes of using force against non-violently resisting protesters engaged in civil disobedience represents much of an improvement over the old ways."
Spring Lundberg, 24, reacted to the hung jury: "Civil rights in this country today are an endangered species just like the ancient redwoods we aim to protect. The fact that our case is a contentious one is the very reason we need to follow through with it and win the retrial. This jury came back 6-2 in our favor this time. Next time we will win."
Said Noel Tendick, 27, one of the eight plaintiffs,"We had a three-fourths majority, but as we saw with the last election, a majority isn't always enough to give you victory. Trees are still falling, police are still brutalizing peaceful protesters, so we will pursue this case, and we will do so vigorously."
Beta cam video news releases (police footage of the actual pepper-spraying) and courtroom drawings are available through the media contact. Video images, legal documents, other background and links available at www.nopepperspray.org . Press packets are available in the courtroom or through the media contact.
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