Jury exonerates police officers who beat disabled woman
'This case demonstrates the difficulty in prosecuting lawsuits against police officers'
Disabled woman admits she hit an officer in self-defense; suing the Los Angeles Police Department for civil rights violations, assault, and battery
LOS ANGELES (MNS) — A Los Angeles Superior Court jury returned a verdict of 10-2 in favor of Los Angeles police officers accused in 2015 of using unreasonable force on a disabled woman.Zennea Foster, who is disabled by Erb’s Palsy, a paralysis of the arm caused by injury to the upper group of the arm’s main nerves, alleged that in 2015 L.A. police officers repeatedly punched her in the face, and pinned her non-functioning left arm underneath her body.
“This case demonstrates the difficulty in prosecuting lawsuits against police officers,” said Foster’s attorney Carl Douglas of the verdict. “Unless you have an air-tight independent witness or a clear video, it is difficult to overcome the natural believability that police officers enjoy, even in South Los Angeles.
“I cannot remember being more disappointed by a jury verdict in my 37 years than I am by this result,” Douglas continued. “However, no matter what the jury decided — and I have great respect for the jury system — I will always believe the force LAPD officers used on that day in 2015 with Ms. Foster was unreasonable.”
Foster, who was born with Erb’s Palsy, testified during the trial that LAPD officers retaliated against her by hitting her, including blows landing against one of her eyes.
Foster, who admits she hit an officer in self-defense, is suing the Los Angeles Police Department for civil rights violations, assault, and battery.
“It was a natural reaction after he hit me,” Foster said of officer Andre Burton.
The plaintiff told the jury that after she fell to the ground, other officers joined the melee and began kicking her. She testified she additionally felt pain in her back caused by the officers striking her with either their knees or their elbows.
“They kept saying I was resisting arrest, but I wasn’t,” Foster said.
Burton, the officer whose actions are the at the center of the trial, testified during the trial that he was unaware of a code of silence among police officers and that he’d only heard of that in movies. When pressed by Douglas on his understanding of a code of silence, Burton likened it to gang member’s code of conduct.
“Like I said we don’t. It’s in movies and stuff like that. That’s nothing we’re trained on or you get in the car and talk about a silence code or stuff like that.”
Douglas alleged his client’s legs were hobbled and that she endured the worst beating of a female by police that he has seen in 37 years as a lawyer. At his request, during the trial, she stood up in the witness chair to demonstrate the limits of her use of her disabled arm, which prevents her from such common movements as clenching her fist while raising her arm above her head.
“Never in my over 37-year career have I ever heard of a woman being beaten as badly as Zennea Foster was on February 4, 2015,” said Douglas. “The defendants concede that they are responsible for her battered and bruised face. One of the defendants, who was recently deposed admitted that he could think of only one other time in his 27-year police career of a police officer punching a woman two times in the face.
“Another officer — a sergeant — conceded that he had never over the course of his 21-year career ever heard of a police officer striking a woman twice in her face. Another officer conceded that he had never encountered another incident in his nine-year career of a woman being punched twice in her face by another officer,” said Douglas.
“That officer stands at least nine inches taller than Ms. Foster and weighs at least 60 pounds more than her and just heightens the outrageousness of his actions. That she is disabled and physically unable to have done the things that she was alleged to have done serves to increase the maliciousness of her attack,” Douglas added.