Photo by John Schreiber.
Photo by John Schreiber.

An attorney for a sheriff’s deputy on trial for allegedly assaulting jail inmates in Compton and Los Angeles argued Monday in closing that his client used reasonable force to protect himself and others, while a prosecutor accused the deputy of “swatting mosquitoes with a missile launcher.”

Deputy Jermaine W. Jackson, 38, is charged with three counts each of assault likely to cause great bodily injury, assault under color of authority and filing false reports in attacks on three inmates — Cesar Campana, Derek Griscavage and Jonathan Murray — in separate incidents between 2009 and 2011.

Jackson took the stand in his defense today and admitted to punching Murray in the eye when “he tried to kick me in the groin.”

Jackson also agreed that he had punched Campana in the ear and kicked him in the head, but because that was the only way he could control the inmate.

Griscavage head butted the deputy during a physical encounter, Jackson said.

Deputy District Attorney Ann Marie Wise asked whether Jackson had been “admonished” by supervisors to create distance and call a supervisor for backup when dealing with recalcitrant inmates, among other tactics.

Jackson at first agreed and then, after his attorney objected to the word, said he was “counseled” following use of force incidents.

Jackson said different sergeants gave different instructions and supervisors generally only serve one year before rotating to another job, so 10- 15 different sergeants might be in charge over five years.

“One might emphasize safety, one may say your uniform should be pressed … one may say handle your floor, another may say call me every time,” the deputy testified.

As for backup, “this is going on rapidly,” Jackson told the prosecutor. “There’s no way to stop it and say ‘Help me.”‘

Jackson insisted he had used reasonable force in all three cases.

Defense attorney Vicki Podberesky showed jurors a chart with a Sheriff’s Department logo illustrating the range of legally defensible options in dealing with inmates, depending on whether they are cooperative or assaultive.

The chart advises deputies dealing with assaultive inmates that they have several options, including using a Taser, a K-9 partner, carotid restraint or choking, less lethal weapons and “personal weapons,” like fists.

During her closing argument, Wise told jurors, “Deputy Jackson … likes to use his fists. Deputy Jackson solves problems in the jail with his fists” and then “filed false reports … to justify his actions.”

Murray was “sitting there minding his own business eating his burritos” and chained at the waist when he allegedly tried to kick Jackson and the deputy retaliated with “another one to five punches once this guy’s on the ground,” Wise said.

Wise said Campana did not resist and could be seen on a video of the incident “laying down trying to block the blows” and was kicked so hard that he had an imprint of Jackson’s boot in his forehead.

“The defendant essentially pushed Mr. Griscavage into a door … punched him in the temple …. and knocked him unconscious,” Wise told jurors.

The prosecutor said Jackson and others had come up with a lie about Griscavage having contraband in order to give him an “attitude check.”

Co-defendant Karen Cring, charged with filing a false report, testified that she told Jackson the way he handled Miscavage “was a horrible mistake,” Wise recalled.

Cring, 33, negotiated a plea deal with prosecutors.

Hirsch alleged that investigators were out to get his client and threatened witnesses “to the point of tears.”

“They didn’t care if they got the truth or a lie,” the defense attorney said, citing another deputy’s testimony.

Custody assistant Jayson Ellis, 28, who also testified at trial, pleaded guilty to one count of assault by means likely to produce great bodily injury in the attack on Griscavage in exchange for 60 days in county jail and three years probation.

Hirsch said Jackson worked in the mental health section of the jail “with inmates who were violent, unpredictable.”

Murray was a convicted murderer who didn’t take his medications and was classified K-10, the highest risk rating for an inmate, Hirsch said.

Campana also refused his medication and Griscavage was diagnosed as schizophrenic on the day in question, according to the defense attorney.

“Many of these people have psychotic episodes,” Hirsch told jurors.

“Jermaine Jackson was in a job where he was allowed to use force.”‘

And when Jackson used force, “each of these, he was told, were within sheriff’s policy,” according to Hirsch.

“Years later he’s told, nope they’re not appropriate, they’re evidence of a crime,” the defense attorney said.

–City News Service

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